In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave
me some advice that Ifve been turning over in my mind
eWhenever you feel like criticizing any one,f he told me,
ejust remember that all the people in this world havenft had
the advantages that youfve had.f
He didnft say any more but wefve always been unusually
communicative in a reserved way, and I understood that he
meant a great deal more than that. In consequence Ifm in-
clined to reserve all judgments, a habit that has opened up
many curious natures to me and also made me the victim
of not a few veteran bores. The abnormal mind is quick to
detect and attach itself to this quality when it appears in a
normal person, and so it came about that in college I was
unjustly accused of being a politician, because I was privy
to the secret griefs of wild, unknown men. Most of the con-
fidences were unsought--frequently I have feigned sleep,
preoccupation, or a hostile levity when I realized by some
unmistakable sign that an intimate revelation was quivering
on the horizon--for the intimate revelations of young men
or at least the terms in which they express them are usu-
ally plagiaristic and marred by obvious suppressions. Reser-
ving judgments is a matter of infinite hope. I am still a little
afraid of missing something if I forget that, as my father
snobbishly suggested and I snobbishly repeat, a sense of
the fundamental decencies is parcelled out unequally at
And, after boasting this way of my tolerance, I come to
the admission that it has a limit. Conduct may be founded
on the hard rock or the wet marshes but after a certain point
I donft care what itfs founded on. When I came back from
the East last autumn I felt that I wanted the world to be in
uniform and at a sort of moral attention forever; I wanted
no more riotous excursions with privileged glimpses into the
human heart. Only Gatsby, the man who gives his name to
this book, was exempt from my reaction--Gatsby who rep-
resented everything for which I have an unaffected scorn.
If personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures,
then there was something gorgeous about him, some height-
ened sensitivity to the promises of life, as if he were related
to one of those intricate machines that register earthquakes
ten thousand miles away. This responsiveness had nothing to
do with that flabby impressionability which is dignified under
the name of the ecreative temperamentf-- it was an extra-
ordinary gift for hope, a romantic readiness such as I have
never found in any other person and which it is not likely I
shall ever find again. No--Gatsby turned out all right at the
end; it is what preyed on Gatsby, what foul dust floated in
the wake of his dreams that temporarily closed out my inter-
est in the abortive sorrows and shortwinded elations of men.
My family have been prominent, well-to-do people in this
middle-western city for three generations. The Carraways
are something of a clan and we have a tradition that wefre
descended from the Dukes of Buccleuch,1 but the actual
founder of my line was my grandfatherfs brother who came
here in fifty-one, sent a substitute to the Civil War and start-
ed the wholesale hardware business that my father carries
I never saw this great-uncle but Ifm supposed to look
like him--with special reference to the rather hard-boiled
painting that hangs in Fatherfs office. I graduated from New
Haven in 1915, just a quarter of a century after my father,
and a little later I participated in that delayed Teutonic migra-
tion known as the Great War. I enjoyed the counter-raid
so thoroughly that I came back restless. Instead of being the
warm center of the world the middle-west now seemed like
the ragged edge of the universe--so I decided to go east and
learn the bond business. Everybody I knew was in the bond
business so I supposed it could support one more single
man. All my aunts and uncles talked it over as if they were
choosing a prep-school for me and finally said, eWhy--yeesf
with very grave, hesitant faces. Father agreed to finance
me for a year and after various delays I came east, perman-
ently, I thought, in the spring of twenty-two.
The practical thing was to find rooms in the city but it was
a warm season and I had just left a country of wide lawns
and friendly trees, so when a young man at the office sug-
gested that we take a house together in a commuting town
it sounded like a great idea. He found the house, a weather
beaten cardboard bungalow at eighty a month, but at the
last minute the firm ordered him to Washington and I went
out to the country alone. I had a dog, at least I had him for a
few days until he ran away, and an old Dodge and a Finnish
woman who made my bed and cooked breakfast and muttered
Finnish wisdom to herself over the electric stove.
It was lonely for a day or so until one morning some man,
more recently arrived than I, stopped me on the road.
eHow do you get to West Egg village?f he asked helplessly.
I told him. And as I walked on I was lonely no longer. I
was a guide, a pathfinder, an original settler. He had casually
conferred on me the freedom of the neighborhood.
And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves
growing on the trees--just as things grow in fast movies--I
had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over
again with the summer.
There was so much to read for one thing and so much
fine health to be pulled down out of the young breath-giving
air. I bought a dozen volumes on banking and credit and
investment securities and they stood on my shelf in red and
gold like new money from the mint, promising to unfold
the shining secrets that only Midas and Morgan and Mae-
cenas2 knew. And I had the high intention of reading many
other books besides. I was rather literary in college--one
year I wrote a series of very solemn and obvious editorials
for the Yale News--and now I was going to bring back all
such things into my life and become again that most limited
of all specialists, the ewell-rounded man.f This isnft just an
epigram--life is much more successfully looked at from a
single window, after all.
It was a matter of chance that I should have rented a
house in one of the strangest communities in North America.
It was on that slender riotous island which extends itself
due east of New York and where there are, among other
natural curiosities, two unusual formations of land. Twenty
miles from the city a pair of enormous eggs, identical in
contour and separated only by a courtesy bay, jut out into
the most domesticated body of salt water in the Western
Hemisphere, the great wet barnyard of Long Island Sound.
They are not perfect ovals--like the egg in the Columbus
story they are both crushed flat at the contact end--but
their physical resemblance must be a source of perpetual
confusion to the gulls that fly overhead. To the wingless a
more arresting phenomenon is their dissimilarity in every
particular except shape and size.
I lived at West Egg, the--well, the less fashionable of the
two, though this is a most superficial tag to express the bi-
zarre and not a little sinister contrast between them. My
house was at the very tip of the egg, only fifty yards from the
Sound, and squeezed between two huge places that rented
for twelve or fifteen thousand a season. The one on my right
was a colossal affair by any standard--it was a factual imita-
tion of some Hotel de Ville in Normandy, with a tower on
one side, spanking new under a thin beard of raw ivy, and a
marble swimming pool and more than forty acres of lawn
and garden. It was Gatsbyfs mansion. Or rather, as I didnft
know Mr. Gatsby it was a mansion inhabited by a gentleman
of that name. My own house was an eye-sore, but it was a
small eye-sore, and it had been overlooked, so I had a view
of the water, a partial view of my neighborfs lawn, and the
consoling proximity of millionaires--all for eighty dollars
Across the courtesy bay the white palaces of fashionable
East Egg glittered along the water, and the history of the
summer really begins on the evening I drove over there to
have dinner with the Tom Buchanans. Daisy was my second
cousin once removed and Ifd known Tom in college. And
just after the war I spent two days with them in Chicago.
Her husband, among various physical accomplishments,
had been one of the most powerful ends that ever played
football at New Haven--a national figure in a way, one of
those men who reach such an acute limited excellence at
twenty-one that everything afterward savors of anti-climax.
His family were enormously wealthy--even in college
his freedom with money was a matter for reproach--but
now hefd left Chicago and come east in a fashion that rather
took your breath away: for instance hefd brought down a
string of polo ponies from Lake Forest. It was hard to realize
that a man in my own generation was wealthy enough
to do that.
Why they came east I donft know. They had spent a year
in France, for no particular reason, and then drifted here
and there unrestfully wherever people played polo and were
rich together. This was a permanent move, said Daisy over
the telephone, but I didnft believe it--I had no sight into
Daisyfs heart but I felt that Tom would drift on forever see-
king a little wistfully for the dramatic turbulence of some
irrecoverable football game.
And so it happened that on a warm windy evening I drove
over to East Egg to see two old friends whom I scarcely
knew at all. Their house was even more elaborate than I
expected, a cheerful red and white Georgian Colonial man-
sion overlooking the bay. The lawn started at the beach and
ran toward the front door for a quarter of a mile, jumping
over sun-dials and brick walks and burning gardens--finally
when it reached the house drifting up the side in bright
vines as though from the momentum of its run. The front
was broken by a line of French windows, glowing now with
reflected gold, and wide open to the warm windy afternoon,
and Tom Buchanan in riding clothes was standing with his
legs apart on the front porch.
He had changed since his New Haven years. Now he was
a sturdy, straw-haired man of thirty with a rather hard
mouth and a supercilious manner. Two shining, arrogant
eyes had established dominance over his face and gave him
the appearance of always leaning aggressively forward. Not
even the effeminate swank of his riding clothes could hide
the enormous power of that body--he seemed to fill those
glistening boots until he strained the top lacing and you
could see a great pack of muscle shifting when his shoulder
moved under his thin coat. It was a body capable of enormous
leverage--a cruel body.
His speaking voice, a gruff husky tenor, added to the impres-
sion of fractiousness he conveyed. There was a touch of
paternal contempt in it, even toward people he liked--and
there were men at New Haven who had hated his guts.
eNow, donft think my opinion on these matters is final,f he
seemed to say, ejust because Ifm stronger and more of a
man than you are.f We were in the same Senior Society, and
while we were never intimate I always had the impression
that he approved of me and wanted me to like him with
some harsh, defiant wistfulness of his own.
We talked for a few minutes on the sunny porch.
eIfve got a nice place here,f he said, his eyes flashing about
Turning me around by one arm he moved a broad flat hand
along the front vista, including in its sweep a sunken Italian
garden, a half acre of deep pungent roses and a snubnosed
motor boat that bumped the tide off shore.
eIt belonged to Demaine the oil man.f He turned me
around again, politely and abruptly. eWefll go inside.f
We walked through a high hallway into a bright rosycolored
space, fragilely bound into the house by French windows
at either end. The windows were ajar and gleaming white
against the fresh grass outside that seemed to grow a
little way into the house. A breeze blew through the room,
blew curtains in at one end and out the other like pale flags,
twisting them up toward the frosted wedding cake of the
ceiling--and then rippled over the wine-colored rug, making
a shadow on it as wind does on the sea.
The only completely stationary object in the room was an
enormous couch on which two young women were buoyed
up as though upon an anchored balloon. They were both
in white and their dresses were rippling and fluttering as if
they had just been blown back in after a short flight around
the house. I must have stood for a few moments listening to
the whip and snap of the curtains and the groan of a picture
on the wall. Then there was a boom as Tom Buchanan shut
the rear windows and the caught wind died out about the
room and the curtains and the rugs and the two young
women ballooned slowly to the floor.
The younger of the two was a stranger to me. She was
extended full length at her end of the divan, completely
motionless and with her chin raised a little as if she were
balancing something on it which was quite likely to fall. If
she saw me out of the corner of her eyes she gave no hint of
it--indeed, I was almost surprised into murmuring an apology
for having disturbed her by coming in.
The other girl, Daisy, made an attempt to rise--she
leaned slightly forward with a conscientious expression--
then she laughed, an absurd, charming little laugh, and I
laughed too and came forward into the room.
eIfm p-paralyzed with happiness.f
She laughed again, as if she said something very witty,
and held my hand for a moment, looking up into my face,
promising that there was no one in the world she so much
wanted to see. That was a way she had. She hinted in a murmur
that the surname of the balancing girl was Baker. (Ifve
heard it said that Daisyfs murmur was only to make people
lean toward her; an irrelevant criticism that made it no less
At any rate Miss Bakerfs lips fluttered, she nodded at me
almost imperceptibly and then quickly tipped her head back
again--the object she was balancing had obviously tottered
a little and given her something of a fright. Again a sort of
apology arose to my lips. Almost any exhibition of complete
self-sufficiency draws a stunned tribute from me.
I looked back at my cousin who began to ask me questions
in her low, thrilling voice. It was the kind of voice that
the ear follows up and down as if each speech is an arrangement
of notes that will never be played again. Her face was
sad and lovely with bright things in it, bright eyes and a
bright passionate mouth--but there was an excitement in
her voice that men who had cared for her found difficult to
forget: a singing compulsion, a whispered eListen,f a promise
that she had done gay, exciting things just a while since
and that there were gay, exciting things hovering in the next
I told her how I had stopped off in Chicago for a day on
my way east and how a dozen people had sent their love
eDo they miss me?f she cried ecstatically.
eThe whole town is desolate. All the cars have the left rear
wheel painted black as a mourning wreath and therefs a persistent
wail all night along the North Shore.f
eHow gorgeous! Letfs go back, Tom. Tomorrow!f Then
she added irrelevantly, eYou ought to see the baby.f
eIfd like to.f
eShefs asleep. Shefs two years old. Havenft you ever seen
eWell, you ought to see her. Shefs----e
Tom Buchanan who had been hovering restlessly about
the room stopped and rested his hand on my shoulder.
eWhat you doing, Nick?f
eIfm a bond man.f
I told him.
eNever heard of them,f he remarked decisively.
This annoyed me.
eYou will,f I answered shortly. eYou will if you stay in the
eOh, Ifll stay in the East, donft you worry,f he said, glancing
at Daisy and then back at me, as if he were alert for something
more. eIfd be a God Damned fool to live anywhere else.f
At this point Miss Baker said eAbsolutely!f with such sudden-
ness that I started--it was the first word she uttered since I
came into the room. Evidently it surprised her as much as it did
me, for she yawned and with a series of rapid, deft movements
stood up into the room.
eIfm stiff,f she complained, eIfve been lying on that sofa
for as long as I can remember.f
eDonft look at me,f Daisy retorted. eIfve been trying to get
you to New York all afternoon.f
eNo, thanks,f said Miss Baker to the four cocktails just in
from the pantry, eIfm absolutely in training.f
Her host looked at her incredulously.
eYou are!f He took down his drink as if it were a drop in
the bottom of a glass. eHow you ever get anything done is
I looked at Miss Baker wondering what it was she egot
done.f I enjoyed looking at her. She was a slender, small-
breasted girl, with an erect carriage which she accentuated
by throwing her body backward at the shoulders like a young
cadet. Her grey sun-strained eyes looked back at me with
polite reciprocal curiosity out of a wan, charming discontented
face. It occurred to me now that I had seen her, or a
picture of her, somewhere before.
eYou live in West Egg,f she remarked contemptuously. eI
know somebody there.f
eI donft know a single----e
eYou must know Gatsby.f
eGatsby?f demanded Daisy. eWhat Gatsby?f
Before I could reply that he was my neighbor dinner
was announced; wedging his tense arm imperatively under
mine Tom Buchanan compelled me from the room as
though he were moving a checker to another square.
Slenderly, languidly, their hands set lightly on their hips
the two young women preceded us out onto a rosy-colored
porch open toward the sunset where four candles flickered
on the table in the diminished wind.
eWhy CANDLES?f objected Daisy, frowning. She snapped
them out with her fingers. eIn two weeks itfll be the longest
day in the year.f She looked at us all radiantly. eDo you al-
ways watch for the longest day of the year and then miss it?
I always watch for the longest day in the year and then miss
eWe ought to plan something,f yawned Miss Baker, sitting
down at the table as if she were getting into bed.
eAll right,f said Daisy. eWhatfll we plan?f She turned to
me helplessly. eWhat do people plan?f
Before I could answer her eyes fastened with an awed expression
on her little finger.
eLook!f she complained. eI hurt it.f
We all looked--the knuckle was black and blue.
eYou did it, Tom,f she said accusingly. eI know you didnft
mean to but you DID do it. Thatfs what I get for marrying
a brute of a man, a great big hulking physical specimen of
eI hate that word hulking,f objected Tom crossly, eeven in
eHulking,f insisted Daisy.
Sometimes she and Miss Baker talked at once, unobtrusively
and with a bantering inconsequence that was never quite chat-
ter, that was as cool as their white dresses and their imperso-
nal eyes in the absence of all desire. They were here--and
they accepted Tom and me, making only a polite pleasant ef-
fort to entertain or to be entertained. They knew that present-
ly dinner would be over and a little later the evening too would
be over and casually put away. It was sharply different from the
West where an evening was hurried from phase to phase toward
its close in a continually disappointed anticipation or else in
sheer nervous dread of the moment itself.
eYou make me feel uncivilized, Daisy,f I confessed on my
second glass of corky but rather impressive claret. eCanft
you talk about crops or something?f
I meant nothing in particular by this remark but it was
taken up in an unexpected way.
eCivilizationfs going to pieces,f broke out Tom violently.
eIfve gotten to be a terrible pessimist about things. Have you
read eThe Rise of the Coloured Empiresf by this man Goddard?f
eWhy, no,f I answered, rather surprised by his tone.
eWell, itfs a fine book, and everybody ought to read it. The
idea is if we donft look out the white race will be--will be utterly
submerged. Itfs all scientific stuff; itfs been proved.f
eTomfs getting very profound,f said Daisy with an expression
of unthoughtful sadness. eHe reads deep books with long words
in them. What was that word we----e
eWell, these books are all scientific,f insisted Tom, glancing
at her impatiently. eThis fellow has worked out the whole
thing. Itfs up to us who are the dominant race to watch out
or these other races will have control of things.f
eWefve got to beat them down,f whispered Daisy, winking
ferociously toward the fervent sun.
eYou ought to live in California--f began Miss Baker but
Tom interrupted her by shifting heavily in his chair.
eThis idea is that wefre Nordics. I am, and you are and you are
and----f After an infinitesimal hesitation he included Daisy with
a slight nod and she winked at me again. e--and wefve produced
all the things that go to make civilization--oh, science and art
and all that. Do you see?f
There was something pathetic in his concentration as if
his complacency, more acute than of old, was not enough to
him any more. When, almost immediately, the telephone
rang inside and the butler left the porch Daisy seized upon
the momentary interruption and leaned toward me.
eIfll tell you a family secret,f she whispered enthusiasti-
cally. eItfs about the butlerfs nose. Do you want to hear about
the butlerfs nose?f
eThatfs why I came over tonight.f
eWell, he wasnft always a butler; he used to be the silver
polisher for some people in New York that had a silver
service for two hundred people. He had to polish it from
morning till night until finally it began to affect his nose--
eThings went from bad to worse,f suggested Miss Baker.
eYes. Things went from bad to worse until finally he had
to give up his position.f
For a moment the last sunshine fell with romantic affection
upon her glowing face; her voice compelled me forward
breathlessly as I listened--then the glow faded, each light
deserting her with lingering regret like children leaving a
pleasant street at dusk.
The butler came back and murmured something close to
Tomfs ear whereupon Tom frowned, pushed back his chair
and without a word went inside. As if his absence quickened
something within her Daisy leaned forward again, her voice
glowing and singing.
eI love to see you at my table, Nick. You remind me of a--
of a rose, an absolute rose. Doesnft he?f She turned to Miss
Baker for confirmation. eAn absolute rose?f
This was untrue. I am not even faintly like a rose. She
was only extemporizing but a stirring warmth flowed from
her as if her heart was trying to come out to you concealed
in one of those breathless, thrilling words. Then suddenly
she threw her napkin on the table and excused herself and
went into the house.
Miss Baker and I exchanged a short glance consciously de-
void of meaning. I was about to speak when she sat up alertly
and said eSh!f in a warning voice. A subdued impassioned
murmur was audible in the room beyond and Miss Baker leaned
forward, unashamed, trying to hear. The murmur trembled on
the verge of coherence, sank down, mounted excitedly, and
then ceased altogether.
eThis Mr. Gatsby you spoke of is my neighbor----f I
eDonft talk. I want to hear what happens.f
eIs something happening?f I inquired innocently.
eYou mean to say you donft know?f said Miss Baker, honestly
surprised. eI thought everybody knew.f
eWhy----f she said hesitantly, eTomfs got some woman
in New York.f
eGot some woman?f I repeated blankly.
Miss Baker nodded.
eShe might have the decency not to telephone him at dinner-
time. Donft you think?f
Almost before I had grasped her meaning there was the
flutter of a dress and the crunch of leather boots and Tom
and Daisy were back at the table.
eIt couldnft be helped!f cried Daisy with tense gayety.
She sat down, glanced searchingly at Miss Baker and then at
me and continued: eI looked outdoors for a minute and itfs
very romantic outdoors. Therefs a bird on the lawn that I
think must be a nightingale come over on the Cunard or
White Star Line. Hefs singing away----f her voice sang
e----Itfs romantic, isnft it, Tom?f
eVery romantic,f he said, and then miserably to me: eIf itfs
light enough after dinner I want to take you down to the
The telephone rang inside, startlingly, and as Daisy shook
her head decisively at Tom the subject of the stables, in fact
all subjects, vanished into air. Among the broken fragments
of the last five minutes at table I remember the candles being
lit again, pointlessly, and I was conscious of wanting to look
squarely at every one and yet to avoid all eyes. I couldnft
guess what Daisy and Tom were thinking but I doubt if even
Miss Baker who seemed to have mastered a certain hardy
skepticism was able utterly to put this fifth guestfs shrill me-
tallic urgency out of mind. To a certain temperament the
situation might have seemed intriguing--my own instinct
was to telephone immediately for the police.
The horses, needless to say, were not mentioned again.
Tom and Miss Baker, with several feet of twilight between
them strolled back into the library, as if to a vigil beside a
perfectly tangible body, while trying to look pleasantly in-
terested and a little deaf I followed Daisy around a chain
of connecting verandas to the porch in front. In its deep
gloom we sat down side by side on a wicker settee.
Daisy took her face in her hands, as if feeling its lovely
shape, and her eyes moved gradually out into the velvet
dusk. I saw that turbulent emotions possessed her, so I
asked what I thought would be some sedative questions
about her little girl.
eWe donft know each other very well, Nick,f she said
suddenly. eEven if we are cousins. You didnft come to
eI wasnft back from the war.f
eThatfs true.f She hesitated. eWell, Ifve had a very bad
time, Nick, and Ifm pretty cynical about everything.f
Evidently she had reason to be. I waited but she didnft say
any more, and after a moment I returned rather feebly to the
subject of her daughter.
eI suppose she talks, and--eats, and everything.f
eOh, yes.f She looked at me absently. eListen, Nick; let me
tell you what I said when she was born. Would you like to
eItfll show you how Ifve gotten to feel about--things.
Well, she was less than an hour old and Tom was God knows
where. I woke up out of the ether with an utterly abandoned
feeling and asked the nurse right away if it was a boy or a
girl. She told me it was a girl, and so I turned my head away
and wept. eAll right,f I said, eIfm glad itfs a girl. And I hope
shefll be a fool--thatfs the best thing a girl can be in this
world, a beautiful little fool.f
eYou see I think everythingfs terrible anyhow,f she went
on in a convinced way. eEverybody thinks so--the most ad-
vanced people. And I know. Ifve been everywhere and seen
everything and done everything.f Her eyes flashed around
her in a defiant way, rather like Tomfs, and she laughed with
thrilling scorn. eSophisticated--God, Ifm sophisticated!f
The instant her voice broke off, ceasing to compel my
attention, my belief, I felt the basic insincerity of what she
had said. It made me uneasy, as though the whole evening
had been a trick of some sort to exact a contributory emotion
from me. I waited, and sure enough, in a moment she
looked at me with an absolute smirk on her lovely face as if
she had asserted her membership in a rather distinguished
secret society to which she and Tom belonged.
Inside, the crimson room bloomed with light. Tom and Miss
Baker sat at either end of the long couch and she read
aloud to him from The Saturday Evening Post--the words,
murmurous and uninflected, running together in a soothing
tune. The lamp-light, bright on his boots and dull on the
autumn-leaf yellow of her hair, glinted along the paper as
she turned a page with a flutter of slender muscles in her
When we came in she held us silent for a moment with
a lifted hand.
eTo be continued,f she said, tossing the magazine on the
table, ein our very next issue.f
Her body asserted itself with a restless movement of her
knee, and she stood up.
eTen ofclock,f she remarked, apparently finding the time
on the ceiling. eTime for this good girl to go to bed.f
eJordanfs going to play in the tournament tomorrow,f explained
Daisy, eover at Westchester.f
eOh,--youfre Jordan Baker.f
I knew now why her face was familiar--its pleasing contem-
ptuous expression had looked out at me from many rotogra-
vure pictures of the sporting life at Asheville and Hot Springs
and Palm Beach. I had heard some story of her too, a critical,
unpleasant story, but what it was I had forgotten long ago.
eGood night,f she said softly. eWake me at eight, wonft
eIf youfll get up.f
eI will. Good night, Mr. Carraway. See you anon.f
eOf course you will,f confirmed Daisy. eIn fact I think Ifll ar-
range a marriage. Come over often, Nick, and Ifll sort of--oh--
fling you together. You know--lock you up accidentally in linen
closets and push you out to sea in a boat, and all that sort of
eGood night,f called Miss Baker from the stairs. eI havenft
heard a word.f
eShefs a nice girl,f said Tom after a moment. eThey oughtnft
to let her run around the country this way.f
eWho oughtnft to?f inquired Daisy coldly.
eHer family is one aunt about a thousand years old. Besides,
Nickfs going to look after her, arenft you, Nick? Shefs
going to spend lots of week-ends out here this summer. I
think the home influence will be very good for her.f
Daisy and Tom looked at each other for a moment in silence.
eIs she from New York?f I asked quickly.
eFrom Louisville. Our white girlhood was passed together
there. Our beautiful white----e
eDid you give Nick a little heart to heart talk on the veranda?f
demanded Tom suddenly.
eDid I?f She looked at me. eI canft seem to remember, but I
think we talked about the Nordic race. Yes, Ifm sure we did.
It sort of crept up on us and first thing you know----e
eDonft believe everything you hear, Nick,f he advised
I said lightly that I had heard nothing at all, and a few
minutes later I got up to go home. They came to the door
with me and stood side by side in a cheerful square of light.
As I started my motor Daisy peremptorily called eWait!
eI forgot to ask you something, and itfs important. We
heard you were engaged to a girl out West.f
eThatfs right,f corroborated Tom kindly. eWe heard that
you were engaged.f
eItfs libel. Ifm too poor.f
eBut we heard it,f insisted Daisy, surprising me by opening
up again in a flower-like way. eWe heard it from three
people so it must be true.f
Of course I knew what they were referring to, but I wasnft
even vaguely engaged. The fact that gossip had published
the banns was one of the reasons I had come east. You canft
stop going with an old friend on account of rumors and on
the other hand I had no intention of being rumored into
Their interest rather touched me and made them less remote-
ly rich--nevertheless, I was confused and a little disgusted
as I drove away. It seemed to me that the thing for Daisy to
do was to rush out of the house, child in arms--but apparently
there were no such intentions in her head. As for Tom, the
fact that he ehad some woman in New Yorkf was really less
surprising than that he had been depressed by a book. Some-
thing was making him nibble at the edge of stale ideas as if
his sturdy physical egotism no longer nourished his peremptory
Already it was deep summer on roadhouse roofs and in front of
wayside garages, where new red gas-pumps sat out in pools of
light, and when I reached my estate at West Egg I ran the car
under its shed and sat for a while on an abandoned grass roller
in the yard. The wind had blown off, leaving a loud bright night
with wings beating in the trees and a persistent organ sound as
the full bellows of the earth blew the frogs full of life. The sil-
houette of a moving cat wavered across the moonlight and turn-
ing my head to watch it I saw that I was not alone--fifty feet
away a figure had emerged from the shadow of my neighborfs
mansion and was standing with his hands in his pockets regard-
ing the silver pepper of the stars. Something in his leisurely
movements and the secure position of his feet upon the lawn
suggested that it was Mr. Gatsby himself, come out to determine
what share was his of our local heavens.
I decided to call to him. Miss Baker had mentioned him
at dinner, and that would do for an introduction. But I
didnft call to him for he gave a sudden intimation that he
was content to be alone--he stretched out his arms toward
the dark water in a curious way, and far as I was from him I
could have sworn he was trembling. Involuntarily I glanced
seaward--and distinguished nothing except a single green
light, minute and far away, that might have been the end of
a dock. When I looked once more for Gatsby he had vanish-
ed, and I was alone again in the unquiet darkness.
About half way between West Egg and New York the
motor-road hastily joins the railroad and runs beside
it for a quarter of a mile, so as to shrink away from a certain
desolate area of land. This is a valley of ashes--a fantastic
farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and
grotesque gardens where ashes take the forms of houses and
chimneys and rising smoke and finally, with a transcendent
effort, of men who move dimly and already crumbling
through the powdery air. Occasionally a line of grey cars
crawls along an invisible track, gives out a ghastly creak and
comes to rest, and immediately the ash-grey men swarm up
with leaden spades and stir up an impenetrable cloud which
screens their obscure operations from your sight.
But above the grey land and the spasms of bleak dust
which drift endlessly over it, you perceive, after a moment,
the eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg. The eyes of Doctor T. J.
Eckleburg are blue and gigantic--their retinas are one yard
high. They look out of no face but, instead, from a pair of
enormous yellow spectacles which pass over a nonexistent
nose. Evidently some wild wag of an oculist set them there
to fatten his practice in the borough of Queens, and then
sank down himself into eternal blindness or forgot them
and moved away. But his eyes, dimmed a little by many
paintless days under sun and rain, brood on over the sol-
emn dumping ground.
The valley of ashes is bounded on one side by a small foul
river, and when the drawbridge is up to let barges through,
the passengers on waiting trains can stare at the dismal
scene for as long as half an hour. There is always a halt there
of at least a minute and it was because of this that I first met
Tom Buchananfs mistress.
The fact that he had one was insisted upon wherever he
was known. His acquaintances resented the fact that he
turned up in popular restaurants with her and, leaving her
at a table, sauntered about, chatting with whomsoever he
knew. Though I was curious to see her I had no desire to
meet her--but I did. I went up to New York with Tom on the
train one afternoon and when we stopped by the ashheaps
he jumped to his feet and taking hold of my elbow literally
forced me from the car.
eWefre getting off!f he insisted. eI want you to meet my
I think hefd tanked up a good deal at luncheon and his
determination to have my company bordered on violence.
The supercilious assumption was that on Sunday afternoon
I had nothing better to do.
I followed him over a low white-washed railroad fence
and we walked back a hundred yards along the road under
Doctor Eckleburgfs persistent stare. The only building
in sight was a small block of yellow brick sitting on the edge
of the waste land, a sort of compact Main Street ministering
to it and contiguous to absolutely nothing. One of the three
shops it contained was for rent and another was an all-night 28
restaurant approached by a trail of ashes; the third was a
garage--Repairs. GEORGE B. WILSON. Cars Bought and
Sold--and I followed Tom inside.
The interior was unprosperous and bare; the only car visible
was the dust-covered wreck of a Ford which crouched
in a dim corner. It had occurred to me that this shadow of
a garage must be a blind and that sumptuous and romantic
apartments were concealed overhead when the proprietor
himself appeared in the door of an office, wiping his hands
on a piece of waste. He was a blonde, spiritless man, anaemic,
and faintly handsome. When he saw us a damp gleam
of hope sprang into his light blue eyes.
eHello, Wilson, old man,f said Tom, slapping him jovially
on the shoulder. eHowfs business?f
eI canft complain,f answered Wilson unconvincingly.
eWhen are you going to sell me that car?f
eNext week; Ifve got my man working on it now.f
eWorks pretty slow, donft he?f
eNo, he doesnft,f said Tom coldly. eAnd if you feel that way
about it, maybe Ifd better sell it somewhere else after all.f
eI donft mean that,f explained Wilson quickly. eI just
His voice faded off and Tom glanced impatiently around
the garage. Then I heard footsteps on a stairs and in a moment
the thickish figure of a woman blocked out the light
from the office door. She was in the middle thirties, and
faintly stout, but she carried her surplus flesh sensuously as
some women can. Her face, above a spotted dress of dark
blue crepe-de-chine, contained no facet or gleam of beauty
but there was an immediately perceptible vitality about her
as if the nerves of her body were continually smouldering.
She smiled slowly and walking through her husband as if he
were a ghost shook hands with Tom, looking him flush in
the eye. Then she wet her lips and without turning around
spoke to her husband in a soft, coarse voice:
eGet some chairs, why donft you, so somebody can sit
eOh, sure,f agreed Wilson hurriedly and went toward the
little office, mingling immediately with the cement color of
the walls. A white ashen dust veiled his dark suit and his
pale hair as it veiled everything in the vicinity--except his
wife, who moved close to Tom.
eI want to see you,f said Tom intently. eGet on the next
eIfll meet you by the news-stand on the lower level.f
She nodded and moved away from him just as George
Wilson emerged with two chairs from his office door.
We waited for her down the road and out of sight. It was
a few days before the Fourth of July, and a grey, scrawny
Italian child was setting torpedoes in a row along the railroad
eTerrible place, isnft it,f said Tom, exchanging a frown
with Doctor Eckleburg.
eIt does her good to get away.f
eDoesnft her husband object?f
eWilson? He thinks she goes to see her sister in New
York. Hefs so dumb he doesnft know hefs alive.f
So Tom Buchanan and his girl and I went up together
to New York--or not quite together, for Mrs. Wilson
sat discreetly in another car. Tom deferred that much to
the sensibilities of those East Eggers who might be on the
She had changed her dress to a brown figured muslin
which stretched tight over her rather wide hips as Tom
helped her to the platform in New York. At the news-stand
she bought a copy of eTown Tattlef and a moving-picture
magazine and, in the station drug store, some cold cream
and a small flask of perfume. Upstairs, in the solemn echoing
drive she let four taxi cabs drive away before she selected
a new one, lavender-colored with grey upholstery, and in this
we slid out from the mass of the station into the glowing
sunshine. But immediately she turned sharply from the
window and leaning forward tapped on the front glass.
eI want to get one of those dogs,f she said earnestly. eI
want to get one for the apartment. Theyfre nice to have--a
We backed up to a grey old man who bore an absurd resemblance
to John D. Rockefeller. In a basket, swung from
his neck, cowered a dozen very recent puppies of an indeterminate
eWhat kind are they?f asked Mrs. Wilson eagerly as he
came to the taxi-window.
eAll kinds. What kind do you want, lady?f
eIfd like to get one of those police dogs; I donft suppose
you got that kind?f
The man peered doubtfully into the basket, plunged in
his hand and drew one up, wriggling, by the back of the
eThatfs no police dog,f said Tom.
eNo, itfs not exactly a police dog,f said the man with
disappointment in his voice. eItfs more of an airedale.f He
passed his hand over the brown wash-rag of a back. eLook
at that coat. Some coat. Thatfs a dog thatfll never bother you
with catching cold.f
eI think itfs cute,f said Mrs. Wilson enthusiastically. eHow
much is it?f
eThat dog?f He looked at it admiringly. eThat dog will cost
you ten dollars.f
The airedale--undoubtedly there was an airedale concerned
in it somewhere though its feet were startlingly white--chang-
ed hands and settled down into Mrs. Wilsonfs lap, where she
fondled the weather-proof coat with rapture.
eIs it a boy or a girl?f she asked delicately.
eThat dog? That dogfs a boy.f
eItfs a bitch,f said Tom decisively. eHerefs your money. Go
and buy ten more dogs with it.f
We drove over to Fifth Avenue, so warm and soft, almost
pastoral, on the summer Sunday afternoon that I wouldnft
have been surprised to see a great flock of white sheep turn
eHold on,f I said, eI have to leave you here.f
eNo, you donft,f interposed Tom quickly. eMyrtlefll be
hurt if you donft come up to the apartment. Wonft you,
eCome on,f she urged. eIfll telephone my sister Catherine.
Shefs said to be very beautiful by people who ought to know.f
eWell, Ifd like to, but----e
We went on, cutting back again over the Park toward the
West Hundreds. At 158th Street the cab stopped at one slice
in a long white cake of apartment houses. Throwing a regal
homecoming glance around the neighborhood, Mrs. Wilson
gathered up her dog and her other purchases and went
eIfm going to have the McKees come up,f she announced
as we rose in the elevator. eAnd of course I got to call up my
The apartment was on the top floor--a small living room, a
small dining room, a small bedroom and a bath. The living
room was crowded to the doors with a set of tapestried
furniture entirely too large for it so that to move about
was to stumble continually over scenes of ladies swinging
in the gardens of Versailles. The only picture was an over-
enlarged photograph, apparently a hen sitting on a blurred
rock. Looked at from a distance however the hen resolved
itself into a bonnet and the countenance of a stout old
lady beamed down into the room. Several old copies of Town
Tattle lay on the table together with a copy of Simon
Called Peter and some of the small scandal magazines of
Broadway. Mrs. Wilson was first concerned with the dog. A
reluctant elevator boy went for a box full of straw and some
milk to which he added on his own initiative a tin of large
hard dog biscuits--one of which decomposed apathetically
in the saucer of milk all afternoon. Meanwhile Tom brought
out a bottle of whiskey from a locked bureau door.
I have been drunk just twice in my life and the second
time was that afternoon so everything that happened has a
dim hazy cast over it although until after eight ofclock the
apartment was full of cheerful sun. Sitting on Tomfs lap
Mrs. Wilson called up several people on the telephone; then
there were no cigarettes and I went out to buy some at the
drug store on the corner. When I came back they had disap-
peared so I sat down discreetly in the living room and read
a chapter of eSimon Called Peterf--either it was terrible stuff
or the whiskey distorted things because it didnft make any
sense to me.
Just as Tom and Myrtle--after the first drink Mrs. Wilson
and I called each other by our first names--reappeared,
company commenced to arrive at the apartment door.
The sister, Catherine, was a slender, worldly girl of about
thirty with a solid sticky bob of red hair and a complexion
powdered milky white. Her eyebrows had been plucked and
then drawn on again at a more rakish angle but the efforts
of nature toward the restoration of the old alignment gave
a blurred air to her face. When she moved about there was
an incessant clicking as innumerable pottery bracelets jingled
up and down upon her arms. She came in with such a
proprietary haste and looked around so possessively at the
furniture that I wondered if she lived here. But when I asked
her she laughed immoderately, repeated my question aloud
and told me she lived with a girl friend at a hotel.
Mr. McKee was a pale feminine man from the flat below. He
had just shaved for there was a white spot of lather on his
cheekbone and he was most respectful in his greeting to
everyone in the room. He informed me that he was in the
eartistic gamef and I gathered later that he was a photo-
grapher and had made the dim enlargement of Mrs. Wilsonfs
mother which hovered like an ectoplasm on the wall. His
wife was shrill, languid, handsome and horrible. She told
me with pride that her husband had photographed her a
hundred and twenty-seven times since they had been mar-
Mrs. Wilson had changed her costume some time before
and was now attired in an elaborate afternoon dress of
cream colored chiffon, which gave out a continual rustle as
she swept about the room. With the influence of the dress
her personality had also undergone a change. The intense
vitality that had been so remarkable in the garage was con-
verted into impressive hauteur. Her laughter, her gestures,
her assertions became more violently affected moment by
moment and as she expanded the room grew smaller around
her until she seemed to be revolving on a noisy, creaking
pivot through the smoky air.
eMy dear,f she told her sister in a high mincing shout, emost
of these fellas will cheat you every time. All they think of is
money. I had a woman up here last week to look at my feet
and when she gave me the bill youfd of thought she had
my appendicitus out.f
eWhat was the name of the woman?f asked Mrs. McKee.
eMrs. Eberhardt. She goes around looking at peoplefs feet
in their own homes.f
eI like your dress,f remarked Mrs. McKee, eI think itfs
Mrs. Wilson rejected the compliment by raising her eyebrow
eItfs just a crazy old thing,f she said. eI just slip it on some-
times when I donft care what I look like.f
eBut it looks wonderful on you, if you know what I mean,f
pursued Mrs. McKee. eIf Chester could only get you in that
pose I think he could make something of it.f
We all looked in silence at Mrs. Wilson who removed a
strand of hair from over her eyes and looked back at us with
a brilliant smile. Mr. McKee regarded her intently with his
head on one side and then moved his hand back and forth
slowly in front of his face.
eI should change the light,f he said after a moment. eIfd
like to bring out the modelling of the features. And Ifd try
to get hold of all the back hair.f
eI wouldnft think of changing the light,f cried Mrs. McKee.
eI think itfs----e
Her husband said eSH!f and we all looked at the subject
again whereupon Tom Buchanan yawned audibly and got
to his feet.
eYou McKees have something to drink,f he said. eGet
some more ice and mineral water, Myrtle, before everybody
goes to sleep.f
eI told that boy about the ice.f Myrtle raised her eyebrows
in despair at the shiftlessness of the lower orders. eThese
people! You have to keep after them all the time.f
She looked at me and laughed pointlessly. Then she flounced
over to the dog, kissed it with ecstasy and swept into the
kitchen, implying that a dozen chefs awaited her orders there.
eIfve done some nice things out on Long Island,f asserted
Tom looked at him blankly.
eTwo of them we have framed downstairs.f
eTwo what?f demanded Tom.
eTwo studies. One of them I call Montauk Point--the
Gulls, and the other I call Montauk Point--the Sea.f'
The sister Catherine sat down beside me on the couch.
eDo you live down on Long Island, too?f she inquired.
eI live at West Egg.f
eReally? I was down there at a party about a month ago.
At a man named Gatsbyfs. Do you know him?f
eI live next door to him.f
eWell, they say hefs a nephew or a cousin of Kaiser Wilhelmfs.
Thatfs where all his money comes from.f
eIfm scared of him. Ifd hate to have him get anything on
This absorbing information about my neighbor was interrupted
by Mrs. McKeefs pointing suddenly at Catherine:
eChester, I think you could do something with HER,f she
broke out, but Mr. McKee only nodded in a bored way and
turned his attention to Tom.
eIfd like to do more work on Long Island if I could get the
entry. All I ask is that they should give me a start.f
eAsk Myrtle,f said Tom, breaking into a short shout of laugh-
ter as Mrs. Wilson entered with a tray. eShefll give you a let-
ter of introduction, wonft you, Myrtle?f
eDo what?f she asked, startled.
eYoufll give McKee a letter of introduction to your husband,
so he can do some studies of him.f His lips moved silently for
a moment as he invented. e eGeorge B. Wilson at the Gasoline
Pump,f or something like that.f
Catherine leaned close to me and whispered in my ear:
eNeither of them can stand the person theyfre married to.f
eCanft stand them.f She looked at Myrtle and then at Tom.
eWhat I say is, why go on living with them if they canft stand
them? If I was them Ifd get a divorce and get married to each
other right away.f
eDoesnft she like Wilson either?f
The answer to this was unexpected. It came from Myrtle who
had overheard the question and it was violent and obscene.
eYou see?f cried Catherine triumphantly. She lowered her
voice again. eItfs really his wife thatfs keeping them apart.
Shefs a Catholic and they donft believe in divorce.f
Daisy was not a Catholic and I was a little shocked at the
elaborateness of the lie.
eWhen they do get married,f continued Catherine, etheyfre
going west to live for a while until it blows over.f
eItfd be more discreet to go to Europe.f
eOh, do you like Europe?f she exclaimed surprisingly. eI
just got back from Monte Carlo.f
eJust last year. I went over there with another girl.f
eNo, we just went to Monte Carlo and back. We went
by way of Marseilles. We had over twelve hundred dollars
when we started but we got gypped out of it all in two days
in the private rooms. We had an awful time getting back, I
can tell you. God, how I hated that town!f
The late afternoon sky bloomed in the window for a moment
like the blue honey of the Mediterranean--then the
shrill voice of Mrs. McKee called me back into the room.
eI almost made a mistake, too,f she declared vigorously. eI
almost married a little kyke whofd been after me for years.
I knew he was below me. Everybody kept saying to me: eLucille,
that manfs way below you!f But if I hadnft met Chester,
hefd of got me sure.f
eYes, but listen,f said Myrtle Wilson, nodding her head
up and down, eat least you didnft marry him.f
eI know I didnft.f
eWell, I married him,f said Myrtle, ambiguously. eAnd
thatfs the difference between your case and mine.f
eWhy did you, Myrtle?f demanded Catherine. eNobody
forced you to.f
eI married him because I thought he was a gentleman,f
she said finally. eI thought he knew something about breeding,
but he wasnft fit to lick my shoe.f
eYou were crazy about him for a while,f said Catherine.
eCrazy about him!f cried Myrtle incredulously. eWho said
I was crazy about him? I never was any more crazy about
him than I was about that man there.f
She pointed suddenly at me, and every one looked at
me accusingly. I tried to show by my expression that I had
played no part in her past.
eThe only crazy I was was when I married him. I knew
right away I made a mistake. He borrowed somebodyfs best
suit to get married in and never even told me about it, and
the man came after it one day when he was out. She looked
around to see who was listening: e eOh, is that your suit?f I
said. eThis is the first I ever heard about it.f But I gave it to
him and then I lay down and cried to beat the band all afternoon.f
eShe really ought to get away from him,f resumed Catherine
to me. eTheyfve been living over that garage for eleven
years. And Tomfs the first sweetie she ever had.f
The bottle of whiskey--a second one--was now in constant
demand by all present, excepting Catherine who efelt just as
good on nothing at all.f Tom rang for the janitor and sent him
for some celebrated sandwiches, which were a complete sup-
per in themselves. I wanted to get out and walk eastward to-
ward the park through the soft twilight but each time I tried
to go I became entangled in some wild strident argument which
pulled me back, as if with ropes, into my chair. Yet high over
the city our line of yellow windows must have contributed
their share of human secrecy to the casual watcher in the
darkening streets, and I was him too, looking up and wonder-
ing. I was within and without, simultaneously enchanted and
repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life.
Myrtle pulled her chair close to mine, and suddenly her
warm breath poured over me the story of her first meeting
eIt was on the two little seats facing each other that are
always the last ones left on the train. I was going up to New
York to see my sister and spend the night. He had on a dress
suit and patent leather shoes and I couldnft keep my eyes off
him but every time he looked at me I had to pretend to be
looking at the advertisement over his head. When we came
into the station he was next to me and his white shirt-front
pressed against my arm--and so I told him Ifd have to call
a policeman, but he knew I lied. I was so excited that when
I got into a taxi with him I didnft hardly know I wasnft getting
into a subway train. All I kept thinking about, over and over,
was eYou canft live forever, you canft live forever.ff
She turned to Mrs. McKee and the room rang full of her
eMy dear,f she cried, eIfm going to give you this dress as
soon as Ifm through with it. Ifve got to get another one to-
morrow. Ifm going to make a list of all the things Ifve got to
get. A massage and a wave and a collar for the dog and one
of those cute little ash-trays where you touch a spring, and
a wreath with a black silk bow for motherfs grave thatfll last
all summer. I got to write down a list so I wonft forget all the
things I got to do.f
It was nine ofclock--almost immediately afterward I looked
at my watch and found it was ten. Mr. McKee was asleep on
a chair with his fists clenched in his lap, like a photograph
of a man of action. Taking out my handkerchief I wiped from
his cheek the remains of the spot of dried lather that had
worried me all the afternoon.
The little dog was sitting on the table looking with blind
eyes through the smoke and from time to time groaning
faintly. People disappeared, reappeared, made plans to go
somewhere, and then lost each other, searched for each
other, found each other a few feet away. Some time toward
midnight Tom Buchanan and Mrs. Wilson stood face to
face discussing in impassioned voices whether Mrs. Wilson
had any right to mention Daisyfs name.
eDaisy! Daisy! Daisy!f shouted Mrs. Wilson. eIfll say it
whenever I want to! Daisy! Dai----e
Making a short deft movement Tom Buchanan broke her
nose with his open hand.
Then there were bloody towels upon the bathroom floor,
and womenfs voices scolding, and high over the confusion
a long broken wail of pain. Mr. McKee awoke from his doze
and started in a daze toward the door. When he had gone
half way he turned around and stared at the scene--his wife
and Catherine scolding and consoling as they stumbled here
and there among the crowded furniture with articles of aid,
and the despairing figure on the couch bleeding fluently and
trying to spread a copy of Town Tattle over the tapestry
scenes of Versailles. Then Mr. McKee turned and continued
on out the door. Taking my hat from the chandelier I follow-
eCome to lunch some day,f he suggested, as we groaned
down in the elevator.
eKeep your hands off the lever,f snapped the elevator
eI beg your pardon,f said Mr. McKee with dignity, eI didnft
know I was touching it.f
eAll right,f I agreed, eIfll be glad to.f
....I was standing beside his bed and he was sitting up
between the sheets, clad in his underwear, with a great
portfolio in his hands.
eBeauty and the Beast...Loneliness...Old Grocery Horse...
Then I was lying half asleep in the cold lower level of the
Pennsylvania Station, staring at the morning eTribunef and
waiting for the four ofclock train.
There was music from my neighborfs house through the
summer nights. In his blue gardens men and girls came
and went like moths among the whisperings and the cham-
pagne and the stars. At high tide in the afternoon I watched
his guests diving from the tower of his raft or taking the
sun on the hot sand of his beach while his two motor-boats
slit the waters of the Sound, drawing aquaplanes over cata-
racts of foam. On week-ends his Rolls-Royce became an
omnibus, bearing parties to and from the city, between
nine in the morning and long past midnight, while his sta-
tion wagon scampered like a brisk yellow bug to meet all
trains. And on Mondays eight servants including an extra
gardener toiled all day with mops and scrubbing-brushes
and hammers and garden-shears, repairing the ravages of
the night before.
Every Friday five crates of oranges and lemons arrived
from a fruiterer in New York--every Monday these same
oranges and lemons left his back door in a pyramid of pulpless
halves. There was a machine in the kitchen which could
extract the juice of two hundred oranges in half an hour, if
a little button was pressed two hundred times by a butlerfs
At least once a fortnight a corps of caterers came down
with several hundred feet of canvas and enough colored
lights to make a Christmas tree of Gatsbyfs enormous
garden. On buffet tables, garnished with glistening horsdf
oeuvre, spiced baked hams crowded against salads of
harlequin designs and pastry pigs and turkeys bewitched to
a dark gold. In the main hall a bar with a real brass rail was
set up, and stocked with gins and liquors and with cordials
so long forgotten that most of his female guests were too
young to know one from another.
By seven ofclock the orchestra has arrived--no thin five-
piece affair but a whole pitful of oboes and trombones and
saxophones and viols and cornets and piccolos and low and
high drums. The last swimmers have come in from the beach
now and are dressing upstairs; the cars from New York are
parked five deep in the drive, and already the halls and salons
and verandas are gaudy with primary colors and hair shorn
in strange new ways and shawls beyond the dreams of Cas-
tile. The bar is in full swing and floating rounds of cocktails
permeate the garden outside until the air is alive with chat-
ter and laughter and casual innuendo and introductions
forgotten on the spot and enthusiastic meetings between
women who never knew each otherfs names.
The lights grow brighter as the earth lurches away from
the sun and now the orchestra is playing yellow cocktail
music and the opera of voices pitches a key higher. Laughter
is easier, minute by minute, spilled with prodigality, tipped
out at a cheerful word. The groups change more swiftly,
swell with new arrivals, dissolve and form in the same
breath--already there are wanderers, confident girls who
weave here and there among the stouter and more stable,
become for a sharp, joyous moment the center of a group
and then excited with triumph glide on through the sea-
change of faces and voices and color under the constantly
Suddenly one of these gypsies in trembling opal, seizes a
cocktail out of the air, dumps it down for courage and mov-
ing her hands like Frisco dances out alone on the canvas
platform. A momentary hush; the orchestra leader varies
his rhythm obligingly for her and there is a burst of chatter
as the erroneous news goes around that she is Gilda Grayfs
understudy from the eFollies.f The party has begun.
I believe that on the first night I went to Gatsbyfs house
I was one of the few guests who had actually been invited.
People were not invited--they went there. They got into
automobiles which bore them out to Long Island and some-
how they ended up at Gatsbyfs door. Once there they were
introduced by somebody who knew Gatsby and after that
they conducted themselves according to the rules of beha-
vior associated with amusement parks. Sometimes they
came and went without having met Gatsby at all, came for
the party with a simplicity of heart that was its own ticket
I had been actually invited. A chauffeur in a uniform of ro-
binfs egg blue crossed my lawn early that Saturday morning
with a surprisingly formal note from his employer--the
honor would be entirely Gatsbyfs, it said, if I would attend
his elittle partyf that night. He had seen me several times
and had intended to call on me long before but a peculiar
combination of circumstances had prevented it--signed Jay
Gatsby in a majestic hand.
Dressed up in white flannels I went over to his lawn a
little after seven and wandered around rather ill-at-ease
among swirls and eddies of people I didnft know--though
here and there was a face I had noticed on the commuting
train. I was immediately struck by the number of young
Englishmen dotted about; all well dressed, all looking a little
hungry and all talking in low earnest voices to solid and
prosperous Americans. I was sure that they were selling
something: bonds or insurance or automobiles. They were,
at least, agonizingly aware of the easy money in the vicinity
and convinced that it was theirs for a few words in the
As soon as I arrived I made an attempt to find my host but
the two or three people of whom I asked his whereabouts
stared at me in such an amazed way and denied so vehe-
mently any knowledge of his movements that I slunk off in
the direction of the cocktail table--the only place in the
garden where a single man could linger without looking
purposeless and alone.
I was on my way to get roaring drunk from sheer embarrass-
ment when Jordan Baker came out of the house and stood
at the head of the marble steps, leaning a little backward and
looking with contemptuous interest down into the garden.
Welcome or not, I found it necessary to attach myself to
someone before I should begin to address cordial remarks
to the passers-by.
eHello!f I roared, advancing toward her. My voice seemed
unnaturally loud across the garden.
eI thought you might be here,f she responded absently as I
came up. eI remembered you lived next door to----e
She held my hand impersonally, as a promise that shefd take
care of me in a minute, and gave ear to two girls in twin yel-
low dresses who stopped at the foot of the steps.
eHello!f they cried together. eSorry you didnft win.f
That was for the golf tournament. She had lost in the finals
the week before.
eYou donft know who we are,f said one of the girls in yellow,
ebut we met you here about a month ago.f
eYoufve dyed your hair since then,f remarked Jordan, and
I started but the girls had moved casually on and her remark
was addressed to the premature moon, produced like the
supper, no doubt, out of a catererfs basket. With Jordanfs
slender golden arm resting in mine we descended the steps
and sauntered about the garden. A tray of cocktails floated
at us through the twilight and we sat down at a table with
the two girls in yellow and three men, each one introduced
to us as Mr. Mumble.
eDo you come to these parties often?f inquired Jordan of
the girl beside her.
eThe last one was the one I met you at,f answered the girl,
in an alert, confident voice. She turned to her companion:
eWasnft it for you, Lucille?f
It was for Lucille, too.
eI like to come,f Lucille said. eI never care what I do, so
I always have a good time. When I was here last I tore my
gown on a chair, and he asked me my name and address--
inside of a week I got a package from Croirierfs with a new
evening gown in it.f
eDid you keep it?f asked Jordan.
eSure I did. I was going to wear it tonight, but it was too
big in the bust and had to be altered. It was gas blue with
lavender beads. Two hundred and sixty-five dollars.f
eTherefs something funny about a fellow thatfll do a thing
like that,f said the other girl eagerly. eHe doesnft want any
trouble with anybody.f
eWho doesnft?f I inquired.
eGatsby. Somebody told me----e
The two girls and Jordan leaned together confidentially.
eSomebody told me they thought he killed a man once.f
A thrill passed over all of us. The three Mr. Mumbles
bent forward and listened eagerly.
eI donft think itfs so much that,f argued Lucille skeptic-
ally; eitfs more that he was a German spy during the war.f
One of the men nodded in confirmation.
eI heard that from a man who knew all about him, grew
up with him in Germany,f he assured us positively.
eOh, no,f said the first girl, eit couldnft be that, because he
was in the American army during the war.f As our credulity
switched back to her she leaned forward with enthusiasm.
eYou look at him sometimes when he thinks nobodyfs looking
at him. Ifll bet he killed a man.f
She narrowed her eyes and shivered. Lucille shivered. We all
turned and looked around for Gatsby. It was testimony to the
romantic speculation he inspired that there were whispers a-
bout him from those who found little that it was necessary to
whisper about in this world.
The first supper--there would be another one after midnight
--was now being served, and Jordan invited me to join her
own party who were spread around a table on the other
side of the garden. There were three married couples and
Jordanfs escort, a persistent undergraduate given to violent
innuendo and obviously under the impression that sooner
or later Jordan was going to yield him up her person to a
greater or lesser degree. Instead of rambling this party had
preserved a dignified homogeneity, and assumed to itself the
function of representing the staid nobility of the countryside
--East Egg condescending to West Egg, and carefully on guard
against its spectroscopic gayety.
eLetfs get out,f whispered Jordan, after a somehow wasteful
and inappropriate half hour. eThis is much too polite for
We got up, and she explained that we were going to find the
host--I had never met him, she said, and it was making me un-
easy. The undergraduate nodded in a cynical, melancholy way.
The bar, where we glanced first, was crowded but Gatsby
was not there. She couldnft find him from the top of the
steps, and he wasnft on the veranda. On a chance we tried
an important-looking door, and walked into a high Gothic
library, panelled with carved English oak, and probably
transported complete from some ruin overseas.
A stout, middle-aged man with enormous owl-eyed spectacles
was sitting somewhat drunk on the edge of a great table, star-
ing with unsteady concentration at the shelves of books. As
we entered he wheeled excitedly around and examined Jordan
from head to foot.
eWhat do you think?f he demanded impetuously.
He waved his hand toward the book-shelves.
eAbout that. As a matter of fact you neednft bother to ascer-
tain. I ascertained. Theyfre real.f
eAbsolutely real--have pages and everything. I thought
theyfd be a nice durable cardboard. Matter of fact, theyfre
absolutely real. Pages and--Here! Lemme show you.f
Taking our skepticism for granted, he rushed to the book-
cases and returned with Volume One of the eStoddard
eSee!f he cried triumphantly. eItfs a bona fide piece of
printed matter. It fooled me. This fellafs a regular Belasco.
Itfs a triumph. What thoroughness! What realism! Knew
when to stop too--didnft cut the pages. But what do you
want? What do you expect?f
He snatched the book from me and replaced it hastily on
its shelf muttering that if one brick was removed the whole
library was liable to collapse.
eWho brought you?f he demanded. eOr did you just come?
I was brought. Most people were brought.f
Jordan looked at him alertly, cheerfully without answering.
eI was brought by a woman named Roosevelt,f he continued.
eMrs. Claud Roosevelt. Do you know her? I met her some-
where last night. Ifve been drunk for about a week now,
and I thought it might sober me up to sit in a library.f
eA little bit, I think. I canft tell yet. Ifve only been here an
hour. Did I tell you about the books? Theyfre real. Theyfre--
eYou told us.f
We shook hands with him gravely and went back outdoors.
There was dancing now on the canvas in the garden, old
men pushing young girls backward in eternal graceless
circles, superior couples holding each other tortuously,
fashionably and keeping in the corners--and a great num-
ber of single girls dancing individualistically or relieving the
orchestra for a moment of the burden of the banjo or the
traps. By midnight the hilarity had increased. A celebrated
tenor had sung in Italian and a notorious contralto had sung
in jazz and between the numbers people were doing estuntsf
all over the garden, while happy vacuous bursts of laughter
rose toward the summer sky. A pair of stage etwinsf--who
turned out to be the girls in yellow--did a baby act in costume
and champagne was served in glasses bigger than finger bowls.
The moon had risen higher, and floating in the Sound was a
triangle of silver scales, trembling a little to the stiff, tinny
drip of the banjoes on the lawn.
I was still with Jordan Baker. We were sitting at a table
with a man of about my age and a rowdy little girl who gave
way upon the slightest provocation to uncontrollable laughter.
I was enjoying myself now. I had taken two finger bowls
of champagne and the scene had changed before my eyes
into something significant, elemental and profound.
At a lull in the entertainment the man looked at me and
eYour face is familiar,f he said, politely. eWerenft you in
the Third Division during the war?f
eWhy, yes. I was in the Ninth Machine-Gun Battalion.f
eI was in the Seventh Infantry until June nineteen-eighteen.
I knew Ifd seen you somewhere before.f
We talked for a moment about some wet, grey little villages
in France. Evidently he lived in this vicinity for he told me
that he had just bought a hydroplane and was going to try
it out in the morning.
eWant to go with me, old sport? Just near the shore along
eAny time that suits you best.f
It was on the tip of my tongue to ask his name when Jordan
looked around and smiled.
eHaving a gay time now?f she inquired.
eMuch better.f I turned again to my new acquaintance.
eThis is an unusual party for me. I havenft even seen the
host. I live over there----f I waved my hand at the invisible
hedge in the distance, eand this man Gatsby sent over his
chauffeur with an invitation.f
For a moment he looked at me as if he failed to understand.
eIfm Gatsby,f he said suddenly.
eWhat!f I exclaimed. eOh, I beg your pardon.f
eI thought you knew, old sport. Ifm afraid Ifm not a very
He smiled understandingly--much more than understandingly.
It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reas-
surance in it, that you may come across four or five times in
life. It faced--or seemed to face--the whole external world
for an instant, and then concentrated on you with an irresist-
ible prejudice in your favor. It understood you just so far as
you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would
like to believe in yourself and assured you that it had precise-
ly the impression of you that, at your best, you hoped to con-
vey. Precisely at that point it vanished--and I was looking at
an elegant young rough-neck, a year or two over thirty, whose
elaborate formality of speech just missed being absurd. Some
time before he introduced himself Ifd got a strong impression
that he was picking his words with care.
Almost at the moment when Mr. Gatsby identified himself
a butler hurried toward him with the information that Chi-
cago was calling him on the wire. He excused himself with
a small bow that included each of us in turn.
eIf you want anything just ask for it, old sport,f he urged
me. eExcuse me. I will rejoin you later.f
When he was gone I turned immediately to Jordan--
constrained to assure her of my surprise. I had expected
that Mr. Gatsby would be a florid and corpulent person in
his middle years.
eWho is he?f I demanded. eDo you know?f
eHefs just a man named Gatsby.f
eWhere is he from, I mean? And what does he do?f
eNow youfre started on the subject,f she answered with
a wan smile. eWell,--he told me once he was an Oxford
A dim background started to take shape behind him but
at her next remark it faded away.
eHowever, I donft believe it.f
eI donft know,f she insisted, eI just donft think he went
Something in her tone reminded me of the other girlfs eI
think he killed a man,f and had the effect of stimulating my
curiosity. I would have accepted without question the inform-
ation that Gatsby sprang from the swamps of Louisiana or
from the lower East Side of New York. That was comprehen-
sible. But young men didnft--at least in my provincial inex-
perience I believed they didnft--drift coolly out of nowhere
and buy a palace on Long Island Sound.
eAnyhow he gives large parties,f said Jordan, changing the
subject with an urbane distaste for the concrete. eAnd I like
large parties. Theyfre so intimate. At small parties there isnft
There was the boom of a bass drum, and the voice of the
orchestra leader rang out suddenly above the echolalia of
eLadies and gentlemen,f he cried. eAt the request of Mr.
Gatsby we are going to play for you Mr. Vladimir Tostofffs
latest work which attracted so much attention at Carnegie
Hall last May. If you read the papers you know there was
a big sensation.f He smiled with jovial condescension and
added eSome sensation!f whereupon everybody laughed.
eThe piece is known,f he concluded lustily, eas eVladimir
Tostofffs Jazz History of the World.e
The nature of Mr. Tostofffs composition eluded me, because
just as it began my eyes fell on Gatsby, standing alone
on the marble steps and looking from one group to another
with approving eyes. His tanned skin was drawn attractively
tight on his face and his short hair looked as though it
were trimmed every day. I could see nothing sinister about
him. I wondered if the fact that he was not drinking helped
to set him off from his guests, for it seemed to me that he
grew more correct as the fraternal hilarity increased. When
the Jazz History of the World was over girls were putting
their heads on menfs shoulders in a puppyish, convivial
way, girls were swooning backward playfully into menfs
arms, even into groups knowing that some one would arrest
their falls--but no one swooned backward on Gatsby
and no French bob touched Gatsbyfs shoulder and no singing
quartets were formed with Gatsbyfs head for one link.
eI beg your pardon.f
Gatsbyfs butler was suddenly standing beside us.
eMiss Baker?f he inquired. eI beg your pardon but Mr.
Gatsby would like to speak to you alone.f
eWith me?f she exclaimed in surprise.
She got up slowly, raising her eyebrows at me in astonish-
ment, and followed the butler toward the house. I noticed
that she wore her evening dress, all her dresses, like sports
clothes--there was a jauntiness about her movements as if
she had first learned to walk upon golf courses on clean,
I was alone and it was almost two. For some time confused
and intriguing sounds had issued from a long many-windowed
room which overhung the terrace. Eluding Jordanfs under-
graduate who was now engaged in an obstetrical conversation
with two chorus girls, and who implored me to join him, I went
The large room was full of people. One of the girls in
yellow was playing the piano and beside her stood a tall,
red haired young lady from a famous chorus, engaged in
song. She had drunk a quantity of champagne and during
the course of her song she had decided ineptly that every-
thing was very very sad--she was not only singing, she was
weeping too. Whenever there was a pause in the song she
filled it with gasping broken sobs and then took up the lyric
again in a quavering soprano. The tears coursed down her
cheeks--not freely, however, for when they came into con-
tact with her heavily beaded eyelashes they assumed an
inky color, and pursued the rest of their way in slow black
rivulets. A humorous suggestion was made that she sing the
notes on her face whereupon she threw up her hands, sank
into a chair and went off into a deep vinous sleep.
eShe had a fight with a man who says hefs her husband,f
explained a girl at my elbow.
I looked around. Most of the remaining women were now
having fights with men said to be their husbands. Even
Jordanfs party, the quartet from East Egg, were rent asun-
der by dissension. One of the men was talking with curious
intensity to a young actress, and his wife after attempting
to laugh at the situation in a dignified and indifferent
way broke down entirely and resorted to flank attacks--at
intervals she appeared suddenly at his side like an angry
diamond, and hissed eYou promised!f into his ear.
The reluctance to go home was not confined to wayward
men. The hall was at present occupied by two deplorably
sober men and their highly indignant wives. The wives were
sympathizing with each other in slightly raised voices.
eWhenever he sees Ifm having a good time he wants to
eNever heard anything so selfish in my life.f
eWefre always the first ones to leave.f
eSo are we.f
eWell, wefre almost the last tonight,f said one of the men
sheepishly. eThe orchestra left half an hour ago.f
In spite of the wivesf agreement that such malevolence
was beyond credibility, the dispute ended in a short struggle,
and both wives were lifted kicking into the night.
As I waited for my hat in the hall the door of the library
opened and Jordan Baker and Gatsby came out together.
He was saying some last word to her but the eagerness in his
manner tightened abruptly into formality as several people
approached him to say goodbye.
Jordanfs party were calling impatiently to her from the
porch but she lingered for a moment to shake hands.
eIfve just heard the most amazing thing,f she whispered.
eHow long were we in there?f
eWhy,--about an hour.f
eIt was--simply amazing,f she repeated abstractedly. eBut
I swore I wouldnft tell it and here I am tantalizing you.f She
yawned gracefully in my face. ePlease come and see me....
Phone book.... Under the name of Mrs. Sigourney Howard....
My aunt....f She was hurrying off as she talked--her
brown hand waved a jaunty salute as she melted into her
party at the door.
Rather ashamed that on my first appearance I had stayed
so late, I joined the last of Gatsbyfs guests who were clus-
tered around him. I wanted to explain that Ifd hunted for
him early in the evening and to apologize for not having
known him in the garden.
eDonft mention it,f he enjoined me eagerly. eDonft give it
another thought, old sport.f The familiar expression held no
more familiarity than the hand which reassuringly brushed
my shoulder. eAnd donft forget wefre going up in the hydro-
plane tomorrow morning at nine ofclock.f
Then the butler, behind his shoulder:
ePhiladelphia wants you on the phone, sir.f
eAll right, in a minute. Tell them Ifll be right therec.
eGood night.f He smiled--and suddenly there seemed to be
a pleasant significance in having been among the last to go,
as if he had desired it all the time. eGood night, old sport...
But as I walked down the steps I saw that the evening was
not quite over. Fifty feet from the door a dozen headlights
illuminated a bizarre and tumultuous scene. In the ditch be-
side the road, right side up but violently shorn of one wheel,
rested a new coupe which had left Gatsbyfs drive not two
minutes before. The sharp jut of a wall accounted for the
detachment of the wheel which was now getting considerable
attention from half a dozen curious chauffeurs. However, as
they had left their cars blocking the road a harsh discordant
din from those in the rear had been audible for some time
and added to the already violent confusion of the scene.
A man in a long duster had dismounted from the wreck
and now stood in the middle of the road, looking from the
car to the tire and from the tire to the observers in a pleasant,
eSee!f he explained. eIt went in the ditch.f
The fact was infinitely astonishing to him--and I recognized
first the unusual quality of wonder and then the man--it was
the late patron of Gatsbyfs library.
eHowfd it happen?f
He shrugged his shoulders.
eI know nothing whatever about mechanics,f he said decisively.
eBut how did it happen? Did you run into the wall?f
eDonft ask me,f said Owl Eyes, washing his hands of the
whole matter. eI know very little about driving--next to
nothing. It happened, and thatfs all I know.f
eWell, if youfre a poor driver you oughtnft to try driving
eBut I wasnft even trying,f he explained indignantly, eI
wasnft even trying.f
An awed hush fell upon the bystanders.
eDo you want to commit suicide?f
eYoufre lucky it was just a wheel! A bad driver and not
eYou donft understand,f explained the criminal. eI wasnft
driving. Therefs another man in the car.f
The shock that followed this declaration found voice in
a sustained eAh-h-h!f as the door of the coupe swung slowly
open. The crowd--it was now a crowd--stepped back invol-
untarily and when the door had opened wide there was a
ghostly pause. Then, very gradually, part by part, a pale
dangling individual stepped out of the wreck, pawing tenta-
tively at the ground with a large uncertain dancing shoe.
Blinded by the glare of the headlights and confused by
the incessant groaning of the horns the apparition stood
swaying for a moment before he perceived the man in the
eWhafs matter?f he inquired calmly. eDid we run outa
Half a dozen fingers pointed at the amputated wheel--he
stared at it for a moment and then looked upward as though
he suspected that it had dropped from the sky.
eIt came off,f some one explained.
eAt first I dinf notice wefd stopped.f
A pause. Then, taking a long breath and straightening
his shoulders he remarked in a determined voice:
eWonderfff tell me where therefs a gasfline station?f
At least a dozen men, some of them little better off than
he was, explained to him that wheel and car were no longer
joined by any physical bond.
eBack out,f he suggested after a moment. ePut her in reverse.f
eBut the wheelfs off!f
eNo harm in trying,f he said.
The caterwauling horns had reached a crescendo and I
turned away and cut across the lawn toward home. I glanced
back once. A wafer of a moon was shining over Gatsbyfs
house, making the night fine as before and surviving the
laughter and the sound of his still glowing garden. A sudden
emptiness seemed to flow now from the windows and
the great doors, endowing with complete isolation the figure
of the host who stood on the porch, his hand up in a
formal gesture of farewell.
Reading over what I have written so far I see I have given
the impression that the events of three nights several weeks
apart were all that absorbed me. On the contrary they were
merely casual events in a crowded summer and, until much
later, they absorbed me infinitely less than my personal affairs.
Most of the time I worked. In the early morning the sun
threw my shadow westward as I hurried down the white
chasms of lower New York to the Probity Trust. I knew the
other clerks and young bond-salesmen by their first names
and lunched with them in dark crowded restaurants on
little pig sausages and mashed potatoes and coffee. I even
had a short affair with a girl who lived in Jersey City and
worked in the accounting department, but her brother began
throwing mean looks in my direction so when she went
on her vacation in July I let it blow quietly away.
I took dinner usually at the Yale Club--for some reason
it was the gloomiest event of my day--and then I went up-
stairs to the library and studied investments and securities
for a conscientious hour. There were generally a few rioters
around but they never came into the library so it was a good
place to work. After that, if the night was mellow I strolled
down Madison Avenue past the old Murray Hill Hotel and
over Thirty-third Street to the Pennsylvania Station.
I began to like New York, the racy, adventurous feel of
it at night and the satisfaction that the constant flicker of
men and women and machines gives to the restless eye. I
liked to walk up Fifth Avenue and pick out romantic women
from the crowd and imagine that in a few minutes I was
going to enter into their lives, and no one would ever know
or disapprove. Sometimes, in my mind, I followed them to
their apartments on the corners of hidden streets, and they
turned and smiled back at me before they faded through
a door into warm darkness. At the enchanted metropolitan
twilight I felt a haunting loneliness sometimes, and felt it
in others--poor young clerks who loitered in front of
windows waiting until it was time for a solitary restaurant
dinner--young clerks in the dusk, wasting the most poig-
nant moments of night and life.
Again at eight ofclock, when the dark lanes of the Forties
were five deep with throbbing taxi cabs, bound for the
theatre district, I felt a sinking in my heart. Forms leaned
together in the taxis as they waited, and voices sang, and
there was laughter from unheard jokes, and lighted cigar-
ettes outlined unintelligible gestures inside. Imagining that
I, too, was hurrying toward gayety and sharing their intimate
excitement, I wished them well.
For a while I lost sight of Jordan Baker, and then in mid-
summer I found her again. At first I was flattered to go
places with her because she was a golf champion and ev-
ery one knew her name. Then it was something more. I
wasnft actually in love, but I felt a sort of tender curiosity.
The bored haughty face that she turned to the world con-
cealed something--most affectations conceal something
eventually, even though they donft in the beginning--and
one day I found what it was. When we were on a houseparty
together up in Warwick, she left a borrowed car out in the
rain with the top down, and then lied about it--and suddenly
I remembered the story about her that had eluded me that
night at Daisyfs. At her first big golf tournament there was
a row that nearly reached the newspapers--a suggestion
that she had moved her ball from a bad lie in the semi-final
round. The thing approached the proportions of a scandal--
then died away. A caddy retracted his statement and the
only other witness admitted that he might have been mis-
taken. The incident and the name had remained together
in my mind.
Jordan Baker instinctively avoided clever shrewd men and
now I saw that this was because she felt safer on a plane
where any divergence from a code would be thought impos-
sible. She was incurably dishonest. She wasnft able to endure
being at a disadvantage, and given this unwillingness I sup-
pose she had begun dealing in subterfuges when she was
very young in order to keep that cool, insolent smile turned
to the world and yet satisfy the demands of her hard jaunty
It made no difference to me. Dishonesty in a woman is
a thing you never blame deeply--I was casually sorry, and
then I forgot. It was on that same house party that we had a
curious conversation about driving a car. It started because
she passed so close to some workmen that our fender flicked
a button on one manfs coat.
eYoufre a rotten driver,f I protested. eEither you ought to
be more careful or you oughtnft to drive at all.f
eI am careful.f
eNo, youfre not.f
eWell, other people are,f she said lightly.
eWhatfs that got to do with it?f
eTheyfll keep out of my way,f she insisted. eIt takes two to
make an accident.f
eSuppose you met somebody just as careless as yourself.f
eI hope I never will,f she answered. eI hate careless people.
Thatfs why I like you.f
Her grey, sun-strained eyes stared straight ahead, but
she had deliberately shifted our relations, and for a moment
I thought I loved her. But I am slow-thinking and full of
interior rules that act as brakes on my desires, and I knew
that first I had to get myself definitely out of that tangle
back home. Ifd been writing letters once a week and signing
them: eLove, Nick,f and all I could think of was how, when
that certain girl played tennis, a faint mustache of perspiration
appeared on her upper lip. Nevertheless there was a
vague understanding that had to be tactfully broken off before
I was free.
Every one suspects himself of at least one of the cardinal
virtues, and this is mine: I am one of the few honest people
that I have ever known.
On Sunday morning while church bells rang in the villages
along shore the world and its mistress returned to Gatsbyfs
house and twinkled hilariously on his lawn.
eHefs a bootlegger,f said the young ladies, moving some-
where between his cocktails and his flowers. eOne time he
killed a man who had found out that he was nephew to von
Hindenburg and second cousin to the devil. Reach me a
rose, honey, and pour me a last drop into that there crystal
Once I wrote down on the empty spaces of a time-table
the names of those who came to Gatsbyfs house that sum-
mer. It is an old time-table now, disintegrating at its folds
and headed eThis schedule in effect July 5th, 1922.f But I
can still read the grey names and they will give you a better
impression than my generalities of those who accepted
Gatsbyfs hospitality and paid him the subtle tribute of
knowing nothing whatever about him.
From East Egg, then, came the Chester Beckers and the
Leeches and a man named Bunsen whom I knew at Yale and
Doctor Webster Civet who was drowned last summer up in
Maine. And the Hornbeams and the Willie Voltaires and a
whole clan named Blackbuck who always gathered in a cor-
ner and flipped up their noses like goats at whosoever came
near. And the Ismays and the Chrysties (or rather Hubert
Auerbach and Mr. Chrystiefs wife) and Edgar Beaver, whose
hair they say turned cotton-white one winter afternoon for
no good reason at all.
Clarence Endive was from East Egg, as I remember. He
came only once, in white knickerbockers, and had a fight
with a bum named Etty in the garden. From farther out
on the Island came the Cheadles and the O. R. P. Schrae-
ders and the Stonewall Jackson Abrams of Georgia and the
Fishguards and the Ripley Snells. Snell was there three days
before he went to the penitentiary, so drunk out on the gra-
vel drive that Mrs. Ulysses Swettfs automobile ran over his
right hand. The Dancies came too and S. B. Whitebait, who
was well over sixty, and Maurice A. Flink and the Hammer-
heads and Beluga the tobacco importer and Belugafs girls.
From West Egg came the Poles and the Mulreadys and
Cecil Roebuck and Cecil Schoen and Gulick the state sena-
tor and Newton Orchid who controlled Films Par Excellence
and Eckhaust and Clyde Cohen and Don S. Schwartze (the
son) and Arthur McCarty, all connected with the movies in
one way or another. And the Catlips and the Bembergs and
G. Earl Muldoon, brother to that Muldoon who afterward
strangled his wife. Da Fontano the promoter came there,
and Ed Legros and James B. (gRot-Gutf) Ferret and the De
Jongs and Ernest Lilly--they came to gamble and when Fer-
ret wandered into the garden it meant he was cleaned out
and Associated Traction would have to fluctuate profitably
A man named Klipspringer was there so often and so long
that he became known as ethe boarderf--I doubt if he had
any other home. Of theatrical people there were Gus Waize
and Horace OfDonavan and Lester Meyer and George Duck-
weed and Francis Bull. Also from New York were the Chromes
and the Backhyssons and the Dennickers and Russel Betty
and the Corrigans and the Kellehers and the Dewars and the
Scullys and S. W. Belcher and the Smirkes and the young
Quinns, divorced now, and Henry L. Palmetto who killed him-
self by jumping in front of a subway train in Times Square.
Benny McClenahan arrived always with four girls. They
were never quite the same ones in physical person but
they were so identical one with another that it inevitably
seemed they had been there before. I have forgotten their
names--Jaqueline, I think, or else Consuela or Gloria or
Judy or June, and their last names were either the melodious
names of flowers and months or the sterner ones of the
great American capitalists whose cousins, if pressed, they
would confess themselves to be.
In addition to all these I can remember that Faustina
OfBrien came there at least once and the Baedeker girls
and young Brewer who had his nose shot off in the war and
Mr. Albrucksburger and Miss Haag, his fiancee, and Ardita
Fitz-Peters, and Mr. P. Jewett, once head of the American
Legion, and Miss Claudia Hip with a man reputed to be her
chauffeur, and a prince of something whom we called Duke
and whose name, if I ever knew it, I have forgotten.
All these people came to Gatsbyfs house in the summer.
At nine ofclock, one morning late in July Gatsbyfs gorge-
ous car lurched up the rocky drive to my door and gave
out a burst of melody from its three noted horn. It was the
first time he had called on me though I had gone to two of
his parties, mounted in his hydroplane, and, at his urgent
invitation, made frequent use of his beach.
eGood morning, old sport. Youfre having lunch with me
today and I thought wefd ride up together.f
He was balancing himself on the dashboard of his car with
that resourcefulness of movement that is so peculiarly Am-
erican--that comes, I suppose, with the absence of lifting
work or rigid sitting in youth and, even more, with the
formless grace of our nervous, sporadic games. This quality
was continually breaking through his punctilious manner
in the shape of restlessness. He was never quite still; there
was always a tapping foot somewhere or the impatient open-
ing and closing of a hand.
He saw me looking with admiration at his car.
eItfs pretty, isnft it, old sport.f He jumped off to give me a
better view. eHavenft you ever seen it before?f
Ifd seen it. Everybody had seen it. It was a rich cream
color, bright with nickel, swollen here and there in its mon-
strous length with triumphant hatboxes and supper-boxes
and tool-boxes, and terraced with a labyrinth of windshields
that mirrored a dozen suns. Sitting down behind many layers
of glass in a sort of green leather conservatory we started
I had talked with him perhaps half a dozen times in the
past month and found, to my disappointment, that he had
little to say. So my first impression, that he was a person
of some undefined consequence, had gradually faded and
he had become simply the proprietor of an elaborate road-
house next door.
And then came that disconcerting ride. We hadnft reached
West Egg village before Gatsby began leaving his elegant
sentences unfinished and slapping himself indecisively on
the knee of his caramel-colored suit.
eLook here, old sport,f he broke out surprisingly. eWhatfs
your opinion of me, anyhow?f
A little overwhelmed, I began the generalized evasions
which that question deserves.
eWell, Ifm going to tell you something about my life,f he
interrupted. eI donft want you to get a wrong idea of me
from all these stories you hear.f
So he was aware of the bizarre accusations that flavored
conversation in his halls.
eIfll tell you Godfs truth.f His right hand suddenly order-
ed divine retribution to stand by. eI am the son of some
wealthy people in the middle-west--all dead now. I was
brought up in America but educated at Oxford because all
my ancestors have been educated there for many years. It
is a family tradition.f
He looked at me sideways--and I knew why Jordan Baker
had believed he was lying. He hurried the phrase eeducated
at Oxford,f or swallowed it or choked on it as though it had
bothered him before. And with this doubt his whole statement
fell to pieces and I wondered if there wasnft something
a little sinister about him after all.
eWhat part of the middle-west?f I inquired casually.
eMy family all died and I came into a good deal of money.f
His voice was solemn as if the memory of that sudden
extinction of a clan still haunted him. For a moment I sus-
pected that he was pulling my leg but a glance at him con-
vinced me otherwise.
eAfter that I lived like a young rajah in all the capitals of
Europe--Paris, Venice, Rome--collecting jewels, chiefly
rubies, hunting big game, painting a little, things for myself
only, and trying to forget something very sad that had hap-
pened to me long ago.f
With an effort I managed to restrain my incredulous laugh-
ter. The very phrases were worn so threadbare that they
evoked no image except that of a turbaned echaracterf
leaking sawdust at every pore as he pursued a tiger through
the Bois de Boulogne.1
eThen came the war, old sport. It was a great relief and I
tried very hard to die but I seemed to bear an enchanted
life. I accepted a commission as first lieutenant when it
began. In the Argonne Forest I took two machine-gun de-
tachments so far forward that there was a half mile gap on
either side of us where the infantry couldnft advance. We
stayed there two days and two nights, a hundred and thirty
men with sixteen Lewis guns, and when the infantry came
up at last they found the insignia of three German divisions
among the piles of dead. I was promoted to be a major and
every Allied government gave me a decoration--even Mon-
tenegro, little Montenegro down on the Adriatic Sea!f
Little Montenegro! He lifted up the words and nodded at
them--with his smile. The smile comprehended Montene-
grofs troubled history and sympathized with the brave
struggles of the Montenegrin people. It appreciated fully
the chain of national circumstances which had elicited this
tribute from Montenegrofs warm little heart. My incredulity
was submerged in fascination now; it was like skimming
hastily through a dozen magazines.
He reached in his pocket and a piece of metal, slung on a
ribbon, fell into my palm.
eThatfs the one from Montenegro.f
To my astonishment, the thing had an authentic look.
Orderi di Danilo, ran the circular legend, Montenegro,
Major Jay Gatsby, I read, For Valour Extraordinary.
eHerefs another thing I always carry. A souvenir of Oxford
days. It was taken in Trinity Quad--the man on my left
is now the Earl of Dorcaster.f
It was a photograph of half a dozen young men in blazers
loafing in an archway through which were visible a host of
spires. There was Gatsby, looking a little, not much, younger
--with a cricket bat in his hand.
Then it was all true. I saw the skins of tigers flaming in his
palace on the Grand Canal; I saw him opening a chest of
rubies to ease, with their crimson-lighted depths, the gnaw-
ings of his broken heart.
eIfm going to make a big request of you today,f he said,
pocketing his souvenirs with satisfaction, eso I thought you
ought to know something about me. I didnft want you to
think I was just some nobody. You see, I usually find myself
among strangers because I drift here and there trying
to forget the sad thing that happened to me.f He hesitated.
eYoufll hear about it this afternoon.f
eNo, this afternoon. I happened to find out that youfre
taking Miss Baker to tea.f
eDo you mean youfre in love with Miss Baker?f
eNo, old sport, Ifm not. But Miss Baker has kindly consented
to speak to you about this matter.f
I hadnft the faintest idea what ethis matterf was, but I was
more annoyed than interested. I hadnft asked Jordan to tea
in order to discuss Mr. Jay Gatsby. I was sure the request
would be something utterly fantastic and for a moment I
was sorry Ifd ever set foot upon his overpopulated lawn.
He wouldnft say another word. His correctness grew on
him as we neared the city. We passed Port Roosevelt, where
there was a glimpse of red-belted ocean-going ships, and
sped along a cobbled slum lined with the dark, undeserted
saloons of the faded gilt nineteen-hundreds. Then the valley
of ashes opened out on both sides of us, and I had a glimpse
of Mrs. Wilson straining at the garage pump with panting
vitality as we went by.
With fenders spread like wings we scattered light through
half Astoria--only half, for as we twisted among the pillars
of the elevated I heard the familiar ejug--jug--SPAT!f of a
motor cycle, and a frantic policeman rode alongside.
eAll right, old sport,f called Gatsby. We slowed down.
Taking a white card from his wallet he waved it before the
eRight you are,f agreed the policeman, tipping his cap.
eKnow you next time, Mr. Gatsby. Excuse me!f
eWhat was that?f I inquired. eThe picture of Oxford?f
eI was able to do the commissioner a favor once, and he
sends me a Christmas card every year.f
Over the great bridge, with the sunlight through the gird-
ers making a constant flicker upon the moving cars, with
the city rising up across the river in white heaps and su-
gar lumps all built with a wish out of non-olfactory money.
The city seen from the Queensboro Bridge is always the
city seen for the first time, in its first wild promise of all
the mystery and the beauty in the world.
A dead man passed us in a hearse heaped with blooms,
followed by two carriages with drawn blinds and by more
cheerful carriages for friends. The friends looked out at us
with the tragic eyes and short upper lips of south-eastern
Europe, and I was glad that the sight of Gatsbyfs splendid
car was included in their somber holiday. As we crossed
Blackwellfs Island a limousine passed us, driven by a white
chauffeur, in which sat three modish Negroes, two bucks
and a girl. I laughed aloud as the yolks of their eyeballs
rolled toward us in haughty rivalry.
eAnything can happen now that wefve slid over this
bridge,f I thought; eanything at all....f
Even Gatsby could happen, without any particular wonder.
Roaring noon. In a well-fanned Forty-second Street cel-
lar I met Gatsby for lunch. Blinking away the brightness of
the street outside my eyes picked him out obscurely in the
anteroom, talking to another man.
eMr. Carraway this is my friend Mr. Wolfshiem.f
A small, flat-nosed Jew raised his large head and regarded
me with two fine growths of hair which luxuriated in either
nostril. After a moment I discovered his tiny eyes in the half
e--so I took one look at him--f said Mr. Wolfshiem, shaking
my hand earnestly, e--and what do you think I did?f
eWhat?f I inquired politely.
But evidently he was not addressing me for he dropped
my hand and covered Gatsby with his expressive nose.
eI handed the money to Katspaugh and I sid, eAll right,
Katspaugh, donft pay him a penny till he shuts his mouth.f
He shut it then and there.f
Gatsby took an arm of each of us and moved forward into
the restaurant whereupon Mr. Wolfshiem swallowed a new
sentence he was starting and lapsed into a somnambulatory
eHighballs?f asked the head waiter.
eThis is a nice restaurant here,f said Mr. Wolfshiem looking
at the Presbyterian nymphs on the ceiling. eBut I like across
the street better!f
eYes, highballs,f agreed Gatsby, and then to Mr. Wolfshiem:
eItfs too hot over there.f
eHot and small--yes,f said Mr. Wolfshiem, ebut full of
eWhat place is that?f I asked.
eThe old Metropole.
eThe old Metropole,f brooded Mr. Wolfshiem gloomily.
eFilled with faces dead and gone. Filled with friends gone
now forever. I canft forget so long as I live the night they
shot Rosy Rosenthal there. It was six of us at the table and
Rosy had eat and drunk a lot all evening. When it was almost
morning the waiter came up to him with a funny look and
says somebody wants to speak to him outside. eAll right,f
says Rosy and begins to get up and I pulled him down in
e'Let the bastards come in here if they want you, Rosy,
but donft you, so help me, move outside this room.f
eIt was four ofclock in the morning then, and if wefd of
raised the blinds wefd of seen daylight.f
eDid he go?f I asked innocently.
eSure he went,f--Mr. Wolfshiemfs nose flashed at me in-
dignantly--eHe turned around in the door and says, eDonft
let that waiter take away my coffee!f Then he went out on
the sidewalk and they shot him three times in his full belly
and drove away.f
eFour of them were electrocuted,f I said, remembering.
eFive with Becker.f His nostrils turned to me in an inter-
ested way. eI understand youfre looking for a business
The juxtaposition of these two remarks was startling.
Gatsby answered for me:
eOh, no,f he exclaimed, ethis isnft the man!f
eNo?f Mr. Wolfshiem seemed disappointed.
eThis is just a friend. I told you wefd talk about that some
eI beg your pardon,f said Mr. Wolfshiem, eI had a wrong
A succulent hash arrived, and Mr. Wolfshiem, forgetting
the more sentimental atmosphere of the old Metropole,
began to eat with ferocious delicacy. His eyes, meanwhile,
roved very slowly all around the room--he completed the
arc by turning to inspect the people directly behind. I think
that, except for my presence, he would have taken one short
glance beneath our own table.
eLook here, old sport,f said Gatsby, leaning toward me,
eIfm afraid I made you a little angry this morning in the
There was the smile again, but this time I held out against
eI donft like mysteries,f I answered. eAnd I donft understand
why you wonft come out frankly and tell me what you want.
Why has it all got to come through Miss Baker?f
eOh, itfs nothing underhand,f he assured me. eMiss Bakerfs
a great sportswoman, you know, and shefd never do anything
that wasnft all right.f
Suddenly he looked at his watch, jumped up and hurried
from the room leaving me with Mr. Wolfshiem at the table.
eHe has to telephone,f said Mr. Wolfshiem, following him with
his eyes. eFine fellow, isnft he? Handsome to look at and a
eHefs an Oggsford man.f
eHe went to Oggsford College in England. You know Oggsford
eIfve heard of it.f
eItfs one of the most famous colleges in the world.f
eHave you known Gatsby for a long time?f I inquired.
eSeveral years,f he answered in a gratified way. eI made
the pleasure of his acquaintance just after the war. But I
knew I had discovered a man of fine breeding after I talked
with him an hour. I said to myself: eTherefs the kind of man
youfd like to take home and introduce to your mother and
sister.f e He paused. eI see youfre looking at my cuff but-
I hadnft been looking at them, but I did now. They were
composed of oddly familiar pieces of ivory.
eFinest specimens of human molars,f he informed me.
eWell!f I inspected them. eThatfs a very interesting idea.f
eYeah.f He flipped his sleeves up under his coat. eYeah,
Gatsbyfs very careful about women. He would never so
much as look at a friendfs wife.f
When the subject of this instinctive trust returned to the
table and sat down Mr. Wolfshiem drank his coffee with a
jerk and got to his feet.
eI have enjoyed my lunch,f he said, eand Ifm going to run
off from you two young men before I outstay my welcome.f
eDonft hurry, Meyer,f said Gatsby, without enthusiasm.
Mr. Wolfshiem raised his hand in a sort of benediction.
eYoufre very polite but I belong to another generation,f he
announced solemnly. eYou sit here and discuss your sports
and your young ladies and your----f He supplied an imaginary
noun with another wave of his hand--eAs for me, I am
fifty years old, and I wonft impose myself on you any longer.f
As he shook hands and turned away his tragic nose was
trembling. I wondered if I had said anything to offend him.
eHe becomes very sentimental sometimes,f explained
Gatsby. eThis is one of his sentimental days. Hefs quite a
character around New York--a denizen of Broadway.f
eWho is he anyhow--an actor?f
eMeyer Wolfshiem? No, hefs a gambler.f Gatsby hesitated,
then added coolly: eHefs the man who fixed the Worldfs Series
back in 1919.f
eFixed the Worldfs Series?f I repeated.
The idea staggered me. I remembered of course that the
Worldfs Series had been fixed in 1919 but if I had thought
of it at all I would have thought of it as a thing that merely
happened, the end of some inevitable chain. It never
occurred to me that one man could start to play with the
faith of fifty million people--with the single-mindedness of
a burglar blowing a safe.
eHow did he happen to do that?f I asked after a minute.
eHe just saw the opportunity.f
eWhy isnft he in jail?f
eThey canft get him, old sport. Hefs a smart man.f
I insisted on paying the check. As the waiter brought my
change I caught sight of Tom Buchanan across the crowded
eCome along with me for a minute,f I said. eIfve got to say
hello to someone.f
When he saw us Tom jumped up and took half a dozen
steps in our direction.
eWherefve you been?f he demanded eagerly. eDaisyfs furious
because you havenft called up.f
eThis is Mr. Gatsby, Mr. Buchanan.f
They shook hands briefly and a strained, unfamiliar look
of embarrassment came over Gatsbyfs face.
eHowfve you been, anyhow?f demanded Tom of me.
eHowfd you happen to come up this far to eat?f
eIfve been having lunch with Mr. Gatsby.f
I turned toward Mr. Gatsby, but he was no longer there.
One October day in nineteen-seventeen----
(said Jordan Baker that afternoon, sitting up very straight
on a straight chair in the tea-garden at the Plaza Hotel)
--I was walking along from one place to another half on
the sidewalks and half on the lawns. I was happier on the
lawns because I had on shoes from England with rubber nobs
on the soles that bit into the soft ground. I had on a new
plaid skirt also that blew a little in the wind and whenever
this happened the red, white and blue banners in front of
all the houses stretched out stiff and said tut-tut-tut-tut
in a disapproving way.
The largest of the banners and the largest of the lawns
belonged to Daisy Fayfs house. She was just eighteen, two
years older than me, and by far the most popular of all the
young girls in Louisville. She dressed in white, and had a
little white roadster and all day long the telephone rang
in her house and excited young officers from Camp Tay-
lor demanded the privilege of monopolizing her that night,
eanyways, for an hour!f
When I came opposite her house that morning her white
roadster was beside the curb, and she was sitting in it with a
lieutenant I had never seen before. They were so engrossed
in each other that she didnft see me until I was five feet
eHello Jordan,f she called unexpectedly. ePlease come
I was flattered that she wanted to speak to me, because
of all the older girls I admired her most. She asked me if I
was going to the Red Cross and make bandages. I was. Well,
then, would I tell them that she couldnft come that day? The
officer looked at Daisy while she was speaking, in a way
that every young girl wants to be looked at sometime, and
because it seemed romantic to me I have remembered the
incident ever since. His name was Jay Gatsby and I didnft
lay eyes on him again for over four years--even after Ifd
met him on Long Island I didnft realize it was the same man.
That was nineteen-seventeen. By the next year I had a
few beaux myself, and I began to play in tournaments, so
I didnft see Daisy very often. She went with a slightly older
crowd--when she went with anyone at all. Wild rumors
were circulating about her--how her mother had found her
packing her bag one winter night to go to New York and say
goodbye to a soldier who was going overseas. She was effec-
tually prevented, but she wasnft on speaking terms with her
family for several weeks. After that she didnft play around
with the soldiers any more but only with a few flat-footed,
short-sighted young men in town who couldnft get into the
army at all.
By the next autumn she was gay again, gay as ever. She
had a debut after the Armistice, and in February she was
presumably engaged to a man from New Orleans. In June
she married Tom Buchanan of Chicago with more pomp
and circumstance than Louisville ever knew before. He
came down with a hundred people in four private cars and
hired a whole floor of the Seelbach Hotel, and the day before
the wedding he gave her a string of pearls valued at three
hundred and fifty thousand dollars.
I was bridesmaid. I came into her room half an hour before
the bridal dinner, and found her lying on her bed as lovely
as the June night in her flowered dress--and as drunk as
a monkey. She had a bottle of sauterne in one hand and a
letter in the other.
f eGratulate me,f she muttered. eNever had a drink before
but oh, how I do enjoy it.f
eWhatfs the matter, Daisy?f
I was scared, I can tell you; Ifd never seen a girl like that
eHere, dearis.f She groped around in a waste-basket she
had with her on the bed and pulled out the string of pearls.
eTake eem downstairs and give eem back to whoever they
belong to. Tell eem all Daisyfs changef her mine. Say eDai-
syfs changef her mine!f.f
She began to cry--she cried and cried. I rushed out and
found her motherfs maid and we locked the door and got
her into a cold bath. She wouldnft let go of the letter. She
took it into the tub with her and squeezed it up into a wet
ball, and only let me leave it in the soap dish when she saw
that it was coming to pieces like snow.
But she didnft say another word. We gave her spirits of
ammonia and put ice on her forehead and hooked her back
into her dress and half an hour later when we walked out of
the room the pearls were around her neck and the incident
was over. Next day at five ofclock she married Tom Buchanan
without so much as a shiver and started off on a three
monthsf trip to the South Seas.
I saw them in Santa Barbara when they came back and
I thought Ifd never seen a girl so mad about her husband.
If he left the room for a minute shefd look around uneasily
and say eWherefs Tom gone?f and wear the most abstracted
expression until she saw him coming in the door. She used to
sit on the sand with his head in her lap by the hour rubbing
her fingers over his eyes and looking at him with unfathom-
able delight. It was touching to see them together--it made
you laugh in a hushed, fascinated way. That was in August.
A week after I left Santa Barbara Tom ran into a wagon on
the Ventura road one night and ripped a front wheel off his
car. The girl who was with him got into the papers too be-
cause her arm was broken--she was one of the chamber-
maids in the Santa Barbara Hotel.
The next April Daisy had her little girl and they went to
France for a year. I saw them one spring in Cannes and lat-
er in Deauville and then they came back to Chicago to set-
tle down. Daisy was popular in Chicago, as you know. They
moved with a fast crowd, all of them young and rich and
wild, but she came out with an absolutely perfect reputation.
Perhaps because she doesnft drink. Itfs a great advantage
not to drink among hard-drinking people. You can hold your
tongue and, moreover, you can time any little irregularity
of your own so that everybody else is so blind that they
donft see or care. Perhaps Daisy never went in for amour
at all--and yet therefs something in that voice of hers....
Well, about six weeks ago, she heard the name Gatsby for
the first time in years. It was when I asked you--do you re-
member?--if you knew Gatsby in West Egg. After you had
gone home she came into my room and woke me up, and
said eWhat Gatsby?f and when I described him--I was half
asleep--she said in the strangest voice that it must be the
man she used to know. It wasnft until then that I connected
this Gatsby with the officer in her white car.
When Jordan Baker had finished telling all this we had
left the Plaza for half an hour and were driving in a Victoria
through Central Park. The sun had gone down behind the
tall apartments of the movie stars in the West Fifties and
the clear voices of girls, already gathered like crickets on the
grass, rose through the hot twilight:
@@@@@@@@eIfm the Sheik of Araby,
@@@@@@@@Your love belongs to me.
@@@@@@@@At night when youfre are asleep,
@@@@@@@@Into your tent Ifll creep----f
eIt was a strange coincidence,f I said.
eBut it wasnft a coincidence at all.f
eGatsby bought that house so that Daisy would be just
across the bay.f
Then it had not been merely the stars to which he had
aspired on that June night. He came alive to me, delivered
suddenly from the womb of his purposeless splendor.
eHe wants to know--f continued Jordan e--if youfll invite
Daisy to your house some afternoon and then let him
The modesty of the demand shook me. He had waited five
years and bought a mansion where he dispensed starlight
to casual moths so that he could ecome overf some
afternoon to a strangerfs garden.
eDid I have to know all this before he could ask such a
eHefs afraid. Hefs waited so long. He thought you might
be offended. You see hefs a regular tough underneath it
Something worried me.
eWhy didnft he ask you to arrange a meeting?f
eHe wants her to see his house,f she explained. eAnd your
house is right next door.f
eI think he half expected her to wander into one of his
parties, some night,f went on Jordan, ebut she never did.
Then he began asking people casually if they knew her, and
I was the first one he found. It was that night he sent for me
at his dance, and you should have heard the elaborate way
he worked up to it. Of course, I immediately suggested a
luncheon in New York--and I thought hefd go mad:
'eI donft want to do anything out of the way!f he kept saying.
eI want to see her right next door.f
eWhen I said you were a particular friend of Tomfs he
started to abandon the whole idea. He doesnft know very
much about Tom, though he says hefs read a Chicago paper
for years just on the chance of catching a glimpse of Daisyfs
It was dark now, and as we dipped under a little bridge
I put my arm around Jordanfs golden shoulder and drew
her toward me and asked her to dinner. Suddenly I wasnft
thinking of Daisy and Gatsby any more but of this clean,
hard, limited person who dealt in universal skepticism and
who leaned back jauntily just within the circle of my arm. A
phrase began to beat in my ears with a sort of heady excite-
ment: eThere are only the pursued, the pursuing, the busy
and the tired.f
eAnd Daisy ought to have something in her life,f murmured
Jordan to me.
eDoes she want to see Gatsby?f
eShefs not to know about it. Gatsby doesnft want her to
know. Youfre just supposed to invite her to tea.f
We passed a barrier of dark trees, and then the facade
of Fifty-ninth Street, a block of delicate pale light, beamed
down into the park. Unlike Gatsby and Tom Buchanan I
had no girl whose disembodied face floated along the dark
cornices and blinding signs and so I drew up the girl beside
me, tightening my arms. Her wan, scornful mouth smiled
and so I drew her up again, closer, this time to my face.
When I came home to West Egg that night I was afraid for
a moment that my house was on fire. Two ofclock and the
whole corner of the peninsula was blazing with light which
fell unreal on the shrubbery and made thin elongating glints
upon the roadside wires. Turning a corner I saw that it was
Gatsbyfs house, lit from tower to cellar.
At first I thought it was another party, a wild rout that had
resolved itself into ehide-and-go-seekf or esardines-inthe-
boxf with all the house thrown open to the game. But there
wasnft a sound. Only wind in the trees which blew the wires
and made the lights go off and on again as if the house had
winked into the darkness. As my taxi groaned away I saw Gat-
sby walking toward me across his lawn.
eYour place looks like the worldfs fair,f I said.
eDoes it?f He turned his eyes toward it absently. eI have been
glancing into some of the rooms. Letfs go to Coney Island,
old sport. In my car.f
eItfs too late.f
eWell, suppose we take a plunge in the swimming pool? I have-
nft made use of it all summer.f
eIfve got to go to bed.f
He waited, looking at me with suppressed eagerness.
eI talked with Miss Baker,f I said after a moment. eIfm go-
ing to call up Daisy tomorrow and invite her over here to
eOh, thatfs all right,f he said carelessly. eI donft want to put
you to any trouble.f
eWhat day would suit you?f
eWhat day would suit YOU?f he corrected me quickly. eI
donft want to put you to any trouble, you see.f
eHow about the day after tomorrow?f He considered for a
moment. Then, with reluctance:
eI want to get the grass cut,f he said.
We both looked at the grass--there was a sharp line where
my ragged lawn ended and the darker, well-kept expanse
of his began. I suspected that he meant my grass.
eTherefs another little thing,f he said uncertainly, and
eWould you rather put it off for a few days?f I asked.
eOh, it isnft about that. At least----f He fumbled with a
series of beginnings. eWhy, I thought--why, look here, old
sport, you donft make much money, do you?f
eNot very much.f
This seemed to reassure him and he continued more
eI thought you didnft, if youfll pardon my--you see, I
carry on a little business on the side, a sort of sideline,
you understand. And I thought that if you donft make very
much--Youfre selling bonds, arenft you, old sport?f
eWell, this would interest you. It wouldnft take up much
of your time and you might pick up a nice bit of money. It
happens to be a rather confidential sort of thing.f
I realize now that under different circumstances that con-
versation might have been one of the crises of my life. But,
because the offer was obviously and tactlessly for a service
to be rendered, I had no choice except to cut him off
eIfve got my hands full,f I said. eIfm much obliged but I
couldnft take on any more work.f
eYou wouldnft have to do any business with Wolfshiem.fEvi-
dently he thought that I was shying away from the egonneg-
tionf mentioned at lunch, but I assured him he was wrong. He
waited a moment longer, hoping Ifd begin a conversation, but
I was too absorbed to be responsive, so he went unwillingly
The evening had made me light-headed and happy; I think I
walked into a deep sleep as I entered my front door. So I didnft
know whether or not Gatsby went to Coney Island or for how
many hours he eglanced into roomsf while his house blazed
gaudily on. I called up Daisy from the office next morning and
invited her to come to tea.
eDonft bring Tom,f I warned her.
eDonft bring Tom.f
eWho is eTomf?f she asked innocently.
The day agreed upon was pouring rain. At eleven ofclock
a man in a raincoat dragging a lawn-mower tapped at my
front door and said that Mr. Gatsby had sent him over to
cut my grass. This reminded me that I had forgotten to tell
my Finn to come back so I drove into West Egg Village to
search for her among soggy white-washed alleys and to buy
some cups and lemons and flowers.
The flowers were unnecessary, for at two ofclock a green-
house arrived from Gatsbyfs, with innumerable receptacles
to contain it. An hour later the front door opened nervously,
and Gatsby in a white flannel suit, silver shirt and gold-colored
tie hurried in. He was pale and there were dark signs of
sleeplessness beneath his eyes.
eIs everything all right?f he asked immediately.
eThe grass looks fine, if thatfs what you mean.f
eWhat grass?f he inquired blankly. eOh, the grass in the
yard.f He looked out the window at it, but judging from his
expression I donft believe he saw a thing.
eLooks very good,f he remarked vaguely. eOne of the
papers said they thought the rain would stop about four.
I think it was The Journal. Have you got everything you
need in the shape of--of tea?f
I took him into the pantry where he looked a little reproach-
fully at the Finn. Together we scrutinized the twelve lemon
cakes from the delicatessen shop.
eWill they do?f I asked.
eOf course, of course! Theyfre fine!f and he added hollowly,
The rain cooled about half-past three to a damp mist through
which occasional thin drops swam like dew. Gatsby looked with
vacant eyes through a copy of Clayfs Economics, starting
at the Finnish tread that shook the kitchen floor and peering
toward the bleared windows from time to time as if a series
of invisible but alarming happenings were taking place outside.
Finally he got up and informed me in an uncertain voice that
he was going home.
eNobodyfs coming to tea. Itfs too late!f He looked at his
watch as if there was some pressing demand on his time
elsewhere. eI canft wait all day.f
eDonft be silly; itfs just two minutes to four.f
He sat down, miserably, as if I had pushed him, and simultan-
eously there was the sound of a motor turning into my lane.
We both jumped up and, a little harrowed myself, I went out
into the yard.
Under the dripping bare lilac trees a large open car was
coming up the drive. It stopped. Daisyfs face, tipped sideways
beneath a three-cornered lavender hat, looked out at
me with a bright ecstatic smile.
eIs this absolutely where you live, my dearest one?f
The exhilarating ripple of her voice was a wild tonic in
the rain. I had to follow the sound of it for a moment, up and
down, with my ear alone before any words came through. A
damp streak of hair lay like a dash of blue paint across her
cheek and her hand was wet with glistening drops as I took
it to help her from the car.
eAre you in love with me,f she said low in my ear. eOr why
did I have to come alone?f
eThatfs the secret of Castle Rackrent. Tell your chauffeur
to go far away and spend an hour.f
eCome back in an hour, Ferdie.f Then in a grave murmur,
eHis name is Ferdie.f
eDoes the gasoline affect his nose?f
eI donft think so,f she said innocently. eWhy?f
We went in. To my overwhelming surprise the living
room was deserted.
eWell, thatfs funny!f I exclaimed.
She turned her head as there was a light, dignified knocking
at the front door. I went out and opened it. Gatsby, pale
as death, with his hands plunged like weights in his coat
pockets, was standing in a puddle of water glaring tragically
into my eyes.
With his hands still in his coat pockets he stalked by me
into the hall, turned sharply as if he were on a wire and dis-
appeared into the living room. It wasnft a bit funny. Aware
of the loud beating of my own heart I pulled the door to
against the increasing rain.
For half a minute there wasnft a sound. Then from the
living room I heard a sort of choking murmur and part of a
laugh followed by Daisyfs voice on a clear artificial note.
eI certainly am awfully glad to see you again.f
A pause; it endured horribly. I had nothing to do in the
hall so I went into the room.
Gatsby, his hands still in his pockets, was reclining against
the mantelpiece in a strained counterfeit of perfect ease,
even of boredom. His head leaned back so far that it rested
against the face of a defunct mantelpiece clock and from
this position his distraught eyes stared down at Daisy who
was sitting frightened but graceful on the edge of a stiff
eWefve met before,f muttered Gatsby. His eyes glanced
momentarily at me and his lips parted with an abortive
attempt at a laugh. Luckily the clock took this moment to
tilt dangerously at the pressure of his head, whereupon he
turned and caught it with trembling fingers and set it back
in place. Then he sat down, rigidly, his elbow on the arm of
the sofa and his chin in his hand.
eIfm sorry about the clock,f he said.
My own face had now assumed a deep tropical burn. I could-
nft muster up a single commonplace out of the thousand in
eItfs an old clock,f I told them idiotically.
I think we all believed for a moment that it had smashed
in pieces on the floor.
eWe havenft met for many years,f said Daisy, her voice as
matter-of-fact as it could ever be.
eFive years next November.f
The automatic quality of Gatsbyfs answer set us all back
at least another minute. I had them both on their feet with
the desperate suggestion that they help me make tea in the
kitchen when the demoniac Finn brought it in on a tray.
Amid the welcome confusion of cups and cakes a certain
physical decency established itself. Gatsby got himself
into a shadow and while Daisy and I talked looked consci-
entiously from one to the other of us with tense unhappy
eyes. However, as calmness wasnft an end in itself I made
an excuse at the first possible moment and got to my feet.
eWhere are you going?f demanded Gatsby in immediate
eIfll be back.f
eIfve got to speak to you about something before you go.f
He followed me wildly into the kitchen, closed the door
and whispered: eOh, God!f in a miserable way.
eWhatfs the matter?f
eThis is a terrible mistake,f he said, shaking his head from
side to side, ea terrible, terrible mistake.f
eYoufre just embarrassed, thatfs all,f and luckily I added:
eDaisyfs embarrassed too.f
eShefs embarrassed?f he repeated incredulously.
eJust as much as you are.f
eDonft talk so loud.f
eYoufre acting like a little boy,f I broke out impatiently.
eNot only that but youfre rude. Daisyfs sitting in there all
He raised his hand to stop my words, looked at me with
unforgettable reproach and opening the door cautiously
went back into the other room.
I walked out the back way--just as Gatsby had when he
had made his nervous circuit of the house half an hour be-
fore--and ran for a huge black knotted tree whose massed
leaves made a fabric against the rain. Once more it was
pouring and my irregular lawn, well-shaved by Gatsbyfs
gardener, abounded in small muddy swamps and prehistoric
marshes. There was nothing to look at from under the tree
except Gatsbyfs enormous house, so I stared at it, like
Kant at his church steeple, for half an hour. A brewer had
built it early in the eperiodf craze, a decade before, and
there was a story that hefd agreed to pay five yearsf taxes
on all the neighboring cottages if the owners would have
their roofs thatched with straw. Perhaps their refusal took
the heart out of his plan to Found a Family--he went into
an immediate decline. His children sold his house with the
black wreath still on the door. Americans, while occasionally
willing to be serfs, have always been obstinate about being
After half an hour the sun shone again and the grocerfs
automobile rounded Gatsbyfs drive with the raw material
for his servantsf dinner--I felt sure he wouldnft eat a
spoonful. A maid began opening the upper windows of his
house, appeared momentarily in each, and, leaning from a
large central bay, spat meditatively into the garden. It was
time I went back. While the rain continued it had seemed
like the murmur of their voices, rising and swelling a little,
now and then, with gusts of emotion. But in the new silence
I felt that silence had fallen within the house too.
I went in--after making every possible noise in the kitchen
short of pushing over the stove--but I donft believe they
heard a sound. They were sitting at either end of the couch
looking at each other as if some question had been asked
or was in the air, and every vestige of embarrassment was
gone. Daisyfs face was smeared with tears and when I came
in she jumped up and began wiping at it with her handkerchief
before a mirror. But there was a change in Gatsby that was
simply confounding. He literally glowed; without a word or a
gesture of exultation a new well-being radiated from him and
filled the little room.
eOh, hello, old sport,f he said, as if he hadnft seen me
for years. I thought for a moment he was going to shake 96
eItfs stopped raining.f
eHas it?f When he realized what I was talking about, that
there were twinkle-bells of sunshine in the room, he smiled
like a weather man, like an ecstatic patron of recurrent light,
and repeated the news to Daisy. eWhat do you think of that?
Itfs stopped raining.f
eIfm glad, Jay.f Her throat, full of aching, grieving beauty,
told only of her unexpected joy.
eI want you and Daisy to come over to my house,f he said,
eIfd like to show her around.f
eYoufre sure you want me to come?f
eAbsolutely, old sport.f
Daisy went upstairs to wash her face--too late I thought
with humiliation of my towels--while Gatsby and I waited
on the lawn.
eMy house looks well, doesnft it?f he demanded. eSee how
the whole front of it catches the light.f
I agreed that it was splendid.
eYes.f His eyes went over it, every arched door and square
tower. eIt took me just three years to earn the money that
eI thought you inherited your money.f
eI did, old sport,f he said automatically, ebut I lost most of
it in the big panic--the panic of the war.f
I think he hardly knew what he was saying, for when I asked
him what business he was in he answered eThatfs my affair,f
before he realized that it wasnft the appropriate reply.
eOh, Ifve been in several things,f he corrected himself. eI
was in the drug business and then I was in the oil business.
But Ifm not in either one now.f He looked at me with more
attention. eDo you mean youfve been thinking over what I
proposed the other night?f
Before I could answer, Daisy came out of the house and two
rows of brass buttons on her dress gleamed in the sunlight.
eThat huge place there?f she cried pointing.
eDo you like it?f
eI love it, but I donft see how you live there all alone.f
eI keep it always full of interesting people, night and day.
People who do interesting things. Celebrated people.f
Instead of taking the short cut along the Sound we went
down the road and entered by the big postern. With enchan-
ting murmurs Daisy admired this aspect or that of the feudal
silhouette against the sky, admired the gardens, the sparkling
odor of jonquils and the frothy odor of hawthorn and plum
blossoms and the pale gold odor of kiss-me-atthe-gate. It
was strange to reach the marble steps and find no stir of
bright dresses in and out the door, and hear no sound but
bird voices in the trees.
And inside as we wandered through Marie Antoinette music
rooms and Restoration salons I felt that there were guests
concealed behind every couch and table, under orders to
be breathlessly silent until we had passed through. As Gat-
sby closed the door of ethe Merton College Libraryf I
could have sworn I heard the owl-eyed man break into
We went upstairs, through period bedrooms swathed in
rose and lavender silk and vivid with new flowers, through
dressing rooms and poolrooms, and bathrooms with sunken
baths--intruding into one chamber where a dishevelled
man in pajamas was doing liver exercises on the floor. It
was Mr. Klipspringer, the eboarder.f I had seen him wand-
ering hungrily about the beach that morning. Finally we
came to Gatsbyfs own apartment, a bedroom and a bath
and an Adam study, where we sat down and drank a glass
of some Chartreuse he took from a cupboard in the wall.
He hadnft once ceased looking at Daisy and I think he
revalued everything in his house according to the measure
of response it drew from her well-loved eyes. Sometimes,
too, he stared around at his possessions in a dazed way as
though in her actual and astounding presence none of it
was any longer real. Once he nearly toppled down a flight
His bedroom was the simplest room of all--except where
the dresser was garnished with a toilet set of pure dull gold.
Daisy took the brush with delight and smoothed her hair,
whereupon Gatsby sat down and shaded his eyes and began
eItfs the funniest thing, old sport,f he said hilariously. eI
canft--when I try to----e
He had passed visibly through two states and was entering
upon a third. After his embarrassment and his unreasoning
joy he was consumed with wonder at her presence. He had
been full of the idea so long, dreamed it right through to the
end, waited with his teeth set, so to speak, at an inconcei-
vable pitch of intensity. Now, in the reaction, he was running
down like an overwound clock.
Recovering himself in a minute he opened for us two
hulking patent cabinets which held his massed suits and
dressing-gowns and ties, and his shirts, piled like bricks in
stacks a dozen high.
eIfve got a man in England who buys me clothes. He sends
over a selection of things at the beginning of each season,
spring and fall.f
He took out a pile of shirts and began throwing them, one
by one before us, shirts of sheer linen and thick silk and fine
flannel which lost their folds as they fell and covered the
table in many-colored disarray. While we admired he brought
more and the soft rich heap mounted higher--shirts with
stripes and scrolls and plaids in coral and apple-green and
lavender and faint orange with monograms of Indian blue.
Suddenly with a strained sound, Daisy bent her head into
the shirts and began to cry stormily.
eTheyfre such beautiful shirts,f she sobbed, her voice muf-
fled in the thick folds. eIt makes me sad because Ifve never
seen such--such beautiful shirts before.f
After the house, we were to see the grounds and the swim-
ming pool, and the hydroplane and the midsummer flowers--
but outside Gatsbyfs window it began to rain again so we
stood in a row looking at the corrugated surface of the
eIf it wasnft for the mist we could see your home across
the bay,f said Gatsby. eYou always have a green light that
burns all night at the end of your dock.f
Daisy put her arm through his abruptly but he seemed ab-
sorbed in what he had just said. Possibly it had occurred
to him that the colossal significance of that light had now
vanished forever. Compared to the great distance that had
separated him from Daisy it had seemed very near to her,
almost touching her. It had seemed as close as a star to the
moon. Now it was again a green light on a dock. His count
of enchanted objects had diminished by one.
I began to walk about the room, examining various indefinite
objects in the half darkness. A large photograph of an elder-
ly man in yachting costume attracted me, hung on the wall
over his desk.
eThat? Thatfs Mr. Dan Cody, old sport.f
The name sounded faintly familiar.
eHefs dead now. He used to be my best friend years ago.f
There was a small picture of Gatsby, also in yachting cos-
tume, on the bureau--Gatsby with his head thrown back
defiantly--taken apparently when he was about eighteen.
eI adore it!f exclaimed Daisy. eThe pompadour! You never
told me you had a pompadour--or a yacht.f
eLook at this,f said Gatsby quickly. eHerefs a lot of clip-
They stood side by side examining it. I was going to ask to
see the rubies when the phone rang and Gatsby took up
eYes.... Well, I canft talk now..... I canft talk now, old sport
..... I said a small town..... He must know what a small town
is..... Well, hefs no use to us if Detroit is his idea of a small
He rang off.
eCome here quick!f cried Daisy at the window.
The rain was still falling, but the darkness had parted in
the west, and there was a pink and golden billow of foamy
clouds above the sea.
eLook at that,f she whispered, and then after a moment: eIfd
like to just get one of those pink clouds and put you in it and
push you around.f
I tried to go then, but they wouldnft hear of it; perhaps
my presence made them feel more satisfactorily alone.
eI know what wefll do,f said Gatsby, ewefll have Klipspringer
play the piano.f
He went out of the room calling eEwing!f and returned
in a few minutes accompanied by an embarrassed, slightly
worn young man with shell-rimmed glasses and scanty
blonde hair. He was now decently clothed in a esport shirtf
open at the neck, sneakers and duck trousers of a nebulous
eDid we interrupt your exercises?f inquired Daisy politely.
eI was asleep,f cried Mr. Klipspringer, in a spasm of embarrass-
ment. eThat is, Ifd been asleep. Then I got up.....f
eKlipspringer plays the piano,f said Gatsby, cutting him
off. eDonft you, Ewing, old sport?f
eI donft play well. I donft--I hardly play at all. Ifm all out
eWefll go downstairs,f interrupted Gatsby. He flipped a
switch. The grey windows disappeared as the house glowed
full of light.
In the music room Gatsby turned on a solitary lamp beside
the piano. He lit Daisyfs cigarette from a trembling match,
and sat down with her on a couch far across the room
where there was no light save what the gleaming floor
bounced in from the hall.
When Klipspringer had played The Love Nest he turned
around on the bench and searched unhappily for Gatsby in
eIfm all out of practice, you see. I told you I couldnft play.
Ifm all out of prac----e
eDonft talk so much, old sport,f commanded Gatsby.
@@@@@@@@In the morning,
@@@@@@@@In the evening,
@@@@@@@@Ain't we got fun----
Outside the wind was loud and there was a faint flow
of thunder along the Sound. All the lights were going on
in West Egg now; the electric trains, men-carrying, were
plunging home through the rain from New York. It was the
hour of a profound human change, and excitement was generating
on the air.
@@@@@@@@One thing's sure and nothing's surer
@@@@@@@@The rich get rich and the poor get--children.
@@@@@@@@In the meantime,
@@@@@@@@In between time----
As I went over to say goodbye I saw that the expression of
bewilderment had come back into Gatsbyfs face, as though
a faint doubt had occurred to him as to the quality of his
present happiness. Almost five years! There must have been
moments even that afternoon when Daisy tumbled short
of his dreams--not through her own fault but because of
the colossal vitality of his illusion. It had gone beyond her,
beyond everything. He had thrown himself into it with a
creative passion, adding to it all the time, decking it out
with every bright feather that drifted his way. No amount
of fire or freshness can challenge what a man will store up
in his ghostly heart.
As I watched him he adjusted himself a little, visibly.
His hand took hold of hers and as she said something low
in his ear he turned toward her with a rush of emotion. I
think that voice held him most with its fluctuating, feverish
warmth because it couldnft be over-dreamed--that voice
was a deathless song.
They had forgotten me, but Daisy glanced up and held
out her hand; Gatsby didnft know me now at all. I looked
once more at them and they looked back at me, remotely,
possessed by intense life. Then I went out of the room and
down the marble steps into the rain, leaving them there together.
About this time an ambitious young reporter from New
York arrived one morning at Gatsbyfs door and asked
him if he had anything to say.
eAnything to say about what?f inquired Gatsby politely.
eWhy,--any statement to give out.f
It transpired after a confused five minutes that the man
had heard Gatsbyfs name around his office in a connection
which he either wouldnft reveal or didnft fully understand.
This was his day off and with laudable initiative he had hurried
out eto see.f
It was a random shot, and yet the reporterfs instinct was
right. Gatsbyfs notoriety, spread about by the hundreds who
had accepted his hospitality and so become authorities on
his past, had increased all summer until he fell just short
of being news. Contemporary legends such as the eunder-
ground pipe-line to Canadaf attached themselves to him,
and there was one persistent story that he didnft live in a
house at all, but in a boat that looked like a house and was
moved secretly up and down the Long Island shore. Just
why these inventions were a source of satisfaction to
James Gatz of North Dakota, isnft easy to say.
James Gatz--that was really, or at least legally, his name.
He had changed it at the age of seventeen and at the spe-
cific moment that witnessed the beginning of his career--
when he saw Dan Codyfs yacht drop anchor over the most
insidious flat on Lake Superior. It was James Gatz who had
been loafing along the beach that afternoon in a torn green
jersey and a pair of canvas pants, but it was already Jay Gat-
sby who borrowed a row-boat, pulled out to the Tuolumne
and informed Cody that a wind might catch him and break
him up in half an hour.
I suppose hefd had the name ready for a long time, even
then. His parents were shiftless and unsuccessful farm peo-
ple--his imagination had never really accepted them as
his parents at all. The truth was that Jay Gatsby, of West
Egg, Long Island, sprang from his Platonic conception of
himself. He was a son of God--a phrase which, if it means
anything, means just that--and he must be about His Fath-
erfs Business, the service of a vast, vulgar and meretricious
beauty. So he invented just the sort of Jay Gatsby that
a seventeen-year-old boy would be likely 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 of Lake Superior as a clam digger and a salmon
fisher or in any other capacity that brought him food and
bed. His brown, hardening body lived naturally through the
half fierce, half lazy work of the bracing days. He knew
women early and since they spoiled him he became con-
temptuous of them, of young virgins because they were
ignorant, of the others because they were hysterical about
things which in his overwhelming self-absorption he took
But his heart was in a constant, turbulent riot. The most
grotesque and fantastic conceits haunted him in his bed at
night. A universe of ineffable gaudiness spun itself out in
his brain while the clock ticked on the wash-stand and the
moon soaked with wet light his tangled clothes upon the
floor. Each night he added to the pattern of his fancies until
drowsiness closed down upon some vivid scene with an
oblivious embrace. For a while these reveries provided an
outlet for his imagination; they were a satisfactory hint of
the unreality of reality, a promise that the rock of the world
was founded securely on a fairyfs wing.
An instinct toward his future glory had led him, some months
before, to the small Lutheran college of St. Olaf in southern
Minnesota. He stayed there two weeks, dismayed at its fero-
cious indifference to the drums of his destiny, to destiny it-
self, and despising the janitorfs work with which he was to
pay his way through. Then he drifted back to Lake Superior,
and he was still searching for something to do on the day
that Dan Codyfs yacht dropped anchor in the shallows along
Cody was fifty years old then, a product of the Nevada
silver fields, of the Yukon, of every rush for metal since
Seventy-five. The transactions in Montana copper that made
him many times a millionaire found him physically robust
but on the verge of soft-mindedness, and, suspecting this
an infinite number of women tried to separate him from
his money. The none too savory ramifications by which Ella
Kaye, the newspaper woman, played Madame de Maintenon
to his weakness and sent him to sea in a yacht, were
common knowledge to the turgid journalism of 1902. He
had been coasting along all too hospitable shores for five
years when he turned up as James Gatzfs destiny at Little
To the young Gatz, resting on his oars and looking up
at the railed deck, the yacht represented all the beauty and
glamor in the world. I suppose he smiled at Cody--he had
probably discovered that people liked him when he smiled.
At any rate Cody asked him a few questions (one of them
elicited the brand new name) and found that he was quick,
and extravagantly ambitious. A few days later he took him
to Duluth and bought him a blue coat, six pair of white duck
trousers and a yachting cap. And when the Tuolumne left
for the West Indies and the Barbary Coast Gatsby left too.
He was employed in a vague personal capacity--while he
remained with Cody he was in turn steward, mate, skipper,
secretary, and even jailor, for Dan Cody sober knew what
lavish doings Dan Cody drunk might soon be about and he
provided for such contingencies by reposing more and more
trust in Gatsby. The arrangement lasted five years during
which the boat went three times around the continent.
It might have lasted indefinitely except for the fact that
Ella Kaye came on board one night in Boston and a week
later Dan Cody inhospitably died.
I remember the portrait of him up in Gatsbyfs bedroom,
a grey, florid man with a hard empty face--the pioneer de-
bauchee who during one phase of American life brought
back to the eastern seaboard the savage violence of the
frontier brothel and saloon. It was indirectly due to Cody
that Gatsby drank so little. Sometimes in the course of
gay parties women used to rub champagne into his hair;
for himself he formed the habit of letting liquor alone.
And it was from Cody that he inherited money--a legacy
of twenty-five thousand dollars. He didnft get it. He never
understood the legal device that was used against him
but what remained of the millions went intact to Ella Kaye.
He was left with his singularly appropriate education; the
vague contour of Jay Gatsby had filled out to the substan-
tiality of a man.
He told me all this very much later, but Ifve put it down
here with the idea of exploding those first wild rumors about
his antecedents, which werenft even faintly true. Moreover
he told it to me at a time of confusion, when I had reached
the point of believing everything and nothing about him.
So I take advantage of this short halt, while Gatsby, so to
speak, caught his breath, to clear this set of misconceptions
It was a halt, too, in my association with his affairs. For
several weeks I didnft see him or hear his voice on the
phone--mostly I was in New York, trotting around with
Jordan and trying to ingratiate myself with her senile aunt--
but finally I went over to his house one Sunday afternoon.
I hadnft been there two minutes when somebody brought
Tom Buchanan in for a drink. I was startled, naturally, but
the really surprising thing was that it hadnft happened before.
They were a party of three on horseback--Tom and a
man named Sloane and a pretty woman in a brown riding
habit who had been there previously.
eIfm delighted to see you,f said Gatsby standing on his
porch. eIfm delighted that you dropped in.f
As though they cared!
eSit right down. Have a cigarette or a cigar.f He walked
around the room quickly, ringing bells. eIfll have something
to drink for you in just a minute.f
He was profoundly affected by the fact that Tom was
there. But he would be uneasy anyhow until he had given
them something, realizing in a vague way that that was all
they came for. Mr. Sloane wanted nothing. A lemonade?
No, thanks. A little champagne? Nothing at all, thanksc.
eDid you have a nice ride?f
eVery good roads around here.f
eI suppose the automobiles----e
Moved by an irresistible impulse, Gatsby turned to Tom
who had accepted the introduction as a stranger.
eI believe wefve met somewhere before, Mr. Buchanan.f
eOh, yes,f said Tom, gruffly polite but obviously not remembering.
eSo we did. I remember very well.f
eAbout two weeks ago.f
eThatfs right. You were with Nick here.f
eI know your wife,f continued Gatsby, almost aggressively.
Tom turned to me.
eYou live near here, Nick?f
Mr. Sloane didnft enter into the conversation but lounged back
haughtily in his chair; the woman said nothing either--until un-
expectedly, after two highballs, she became cordial.
eWefll all come over to your next party, Mr. Gatsby,f she
suggested. eWhat do you say?f
eCertainly. Ifd be delighted to have you.f
eBe verf nice,f said Mr. Sloane, without gratitude. eWell--
think ought to be starting home.f
ePlease donft hurry,f Gatsby urged them. He had control of
himself now and he wanted to see more of Tom. eWhy donft
you--why donft you stay for supper? I wouldnft be surprised
if some other people dropped in from New York.f
eYou come to supper with me,f said the lady enthusiastically.
eBoth of you.f
This included me. Mr. Sloane got to his feet.
eCome along,f he said--but to her only.
eI mean it,f she insisted. eIfd love to have you. Lots of
Gatsby looked at me questioningly. He wanted to go and
he didnft see that Mr. Sloane had determined he shouldnft.
eIfm afraid I wonft be able to,f I said.
eWell, you come,f she urged, concentrating on Gatsby.
Mr. Sloane murmured something close to her ear.
eWe wonft be late if we start now,f she insisted aloud.
eI havenft got a horse,f said Gatsby. eI used to ride in the
army but Ifve never bought a horse. Ifll have to follow you in
my car. Excuse me for just a minute.f
The rest of us walked out on the porch, where Sloane and
the lady began an impassioned conversation aside.
eMy God, I believe the manfs coming,f said Tom. eDoesnft
he know she doesnft want him?f
eShe says she does want him.f
eShe has a big dinner party and he wonft know a soul there.f
He frowned. eI wonder where in the devil he met Daisy.
By God, I may be old-fashioned in my ideas, but women
run around too much these days to suit me. They meet all
kinds of crazy fish.f
Suddenly Mr. Sloane and the lady walked down the steps
and mounted their horses.
eCome on,f said Mr. Sloane to Tom, ewefre late. Wefve
got to go.f And then to me: eTell him we couldnft wait, will
Tom and I shook hands, the rest of us exchanged a cool
nod and they trotted quickly down the drive, disappearing
under the August foliage just as Gatsby with hat and light
overcoat in hand came out the front door.
Tom was evidently perturbed at Daisyfs running around
alone, for on the following Saturday night he came with her
to Gatsbyfs party. Perhaps his presence gave the evening
its peculiar quality of oppressiveness--it stands out in my
memory from Gatsbyfs other parties that summer. There
were the same people, or at least the same sort of people,
the same profusion of champagne, the same many-colored,
many-keyed commotion, but I felt an unpleasantness in the
air, a pervading harshness that hadnft 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 own stand-
ards and its own great figures, second to nothing because
it had no consciousness of being so, and now I was looking
at it again, through Daisyfs eyes. It is invariably saddening
to look through new eyes at things upon which you have
expended your own powers of adjustment.
They arrived at twilight and as we strolled out among the
sparkling hundreds Daisyfs voice was playing murmurous
tricks in her throat.
eThese things excite me so,f she whispered. eIf you want
to kiss me any time during the evening, Nick, just let me
know and Ifll be glad to arrange it for you. Just mention my
name. Or present a green card. Ifm giving out green----e
eLook around,f suggested Gatsby.
eIfm looking around. Ifm having a marvelous----e
eYou must see the faces of many people youfve heard
Tomfs arrogant eyes roamed the crowd.
eWe donft go around very much,f he said. eIn fact I was
just thinking I donft know a soul here.f
ePerhaps you know that lady.f Gatsby indicated a gorgeous,
scarcely human orchid of a woman who sat in state under
a white plum tree. Tom and Daisy stared, with that peculiar-
ly unreal feeling that accompanies the recognition of a hith-
erto ghostly celebrity of the movies.
eShefs lovely,f said Daisy.
eThe man bending over her is her director.f
He took them ceremoniously from group to group:
eMrs. Buchanan c and Mr. Buchanan----f After an instantfs
hesitation he added: ethe polo player.f
eOh no,f objected Tom quickly, eNot me.f
But evidently the sound of it pleased Gatsby for Tom remained
ethe polo playerf for the rest of the evening.
eIfve never met so many celebrities!f Daisy exclaimed. eI
liked that man--what was his name?--with the sort of blue
Gatsby identified him, adding that he was a small producer.
eWell, I liked him anyhow.f
eIfd a little rather not be the polo player,f said Tom pleasantly,
eIfd rather look at all these famous people in--in oblivion.f
Daisy and Gatsby danced. I remember being surprised by his
graceful, conservative fox-trot--I had never seen him dance
before. Then they sauntered over to my house and sat on the
steps for half an hour while at her request I remained watch-
fully in the garden: eIn case therefs a fire or a flood,fshe
explained, eor any act of God.f
Tom appeared from his oblivion as we were sitting down
to supper together. eDo you mind if I eat with some people
over here?f he said. eA fellowfs getting off some funny stuff.f
eGo ahead,f answered Daisy genially, eAnd if you want
to take down any addresses herefs my little gold pencilc.f
She looked around after a moment and told me the girl was
ecommon but pretty,f and I knew that except for the half
hour shefd been alone with Gatsby she wasnft having a good
We were at a particularly tipsy table. That was my fault--
Gatsby had been called to the phone and Ifd enjoyed these
same people only two weeks before. But what had amused
me then turned septic on the air now.
eHow do you feel, Miss Baedeker?f
The girl addressed was trying, unsuccessfully, to slump
against my shoulder. At this inquiry she sat up and opened
A massive and lethargic woman, who had been urging
Daisy to play golf with her at the local club tomorrow, spoke
in Miss Baedekerfs defence:
eOh, shefs all right now. When shefs had five or six cocktails
she always starts screaming like that. I tell her she ought to
leave it alone.f
eI do leave it alone,f affirmed the accused hollowly.
eWe heard you yelling, so I said to Doc Civet here: eTherefs
somebody that needs your help, Doc.f e
eShefs much obliged, Ifm sure,f said another friend, without
gratitude. eBut you got her dress all wet when you stuck
her head in the pool.f
eAnything I hate is to get my head stuck in a pool,f mumbled
Miss Baedeker. eThey almost drowned me once over in New
eThen you ought to leave it alone,f countered Doctor Civet.
eSpeak for yourself!f cried Miss Baedeker violently. eYour
hand shakes. I wouldnft let you operate on me!f
It was like that. Almost the last thing I remember was stand-
ing with Daisy and watching the moving picture director and
his Star. They were still under the white plum tree and their
faces were touching except for a pale thin ray of moonlight
between. It occurred to me that he had been very slowly
bending toward her all evening to attain this proximity, and
even while I watched I saw him stoop one ultimate degree
and kiss at her cheek.
eI like her,f said Daisy, eI think shefs lovely.f
But the rest offended her--and inarguably, because it wasnft
a gesture but an emotion. She was appalled by West Egg, this
unprecedented eplacef that Broadway had begotten upon a
Long Island fishing village--appalled by its raw vigor that
chafed under the old euphemisms and by the too obtrusive
fate that herded its inhabitants along a short cut from no-
thing to nothing. She saw something awful in the very sim-
plicity she failed to understand.
I sat on the front steps with them while they waited for their
car. It was dark here in front: only the bright door sent ten
square feet of light volleying out into the soft black morning.
Sometimes a shadow moved against a dressingroom blind a-
bove, gave way to another shadow, an indefinite procession
of shadows, who rouged and powdered in an invisible glass.
eWho is this Gatsby anyhow?f demanded Tom suddenly.
eSome big bootlegger?f
eWherefd you hear that?f I inquired.
eI didnft hear it. I imagined it. A lot of these newly rich
people are just big bootleggers, you know.f
eNot Gatsby,f I said shortly.
He was silent for a moment. The pebbles of the drive
crunched under his feet.
eWell, he certainly must have strained himself to get this
A breeze stirred the grey haze of Daisyfs fur collar.
eAt least theyfre more interesting than the people we
know,f she said with an effort.
eYou didnft look so interested.f
eWell, I was.f
Tom laughed and turned to me.
eDid you notice Daisyfs face when that girl asked her to
put her under a cold shower?f
Daisy began to sing with the music in a husky, rhythmic
whisper, bringing out a meaning in each word that it
had never had before and would never have again. When
the melody rose, her voice broke up sweetly, following it, in
a way contralto voices have, and each change tipped out a
little of her warm human magic upon the air.
eLots of people come who havenft been invited,f she said
suddenly. eThat girl hadnft been invited. They simply force
their way in and hefs too polite to object.f
eIfd like to know who he is and what he does,f insisted
Tom. eAnd I think Ifll make a point of finding out.f
eI can tell you right now,f she answered. eHe owned some
drug stores, a lot of drug stores. He built them up himself.f
The dilatory limousine came rolling up the drive.
eGood night, Nick,f said Daisy.
Her glance left me and sought the lighted top of the steps
where Three ofClock in the Morning, a neat, sad little waltz
of that year, was drifting out the open door. After all, in the
very casualness of Gatsbyfs party there were romantic pos-
sibilitiestotally absent from her world. What was it up there
in the song that seemed to be calling her back inside? What
would happen now in the dim incalculable hours? Perhaps
some unbelievable guest would arrive, a person infinitely
rare and to be marvelled at, some authentically radiant
young girl who with one fresh glance at Gatsby, one mo-
ment of magical encounter, would blot out those five years
of unwavering devotion.
I stayed late that night. Gatsby asked me to wait until he
was free and I lingered in the garden until the inevitable
swimming party had run up, chilled and exalted, from the
black beach, until the lights were extinguished in the guest
rooms overhead. When he came down the steps at last the
tanned skin was drawn unusually tight on his face, and his
eyes were bright and tired.
eShe didnft like it,f he said immediately.
eOf course she did.f
eShe didnft like it,f he insisted. eShe didnft have a good
He was silent and I guessed at his unutterable depression.
eI feel far away from her,f he said. eItfs hard to make her
eYou mean about the dance?f
eThe dance?f He dismissed all the dances he had given with
a snap of his fingers. eOld sport, the dance is unimportant.f
He wanted nothing less of Daisy than that she should go to
Tom and say: eI never loved you.f After she had obliterated
three years with that sentence 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 to Louisville
and be married from her house--just as if it were five years
eAnd she doesnft understand,f he said. eShe used to be
able to understand. Wefd sit for hours----e
He broke off and began to walk up and down a desolate
path of fruit rinds and discarded favors and crushed flowers.
eI wouldnft ask too much of her,f I ventured. eYou canft
repeat the past.f
eCanft repeat the past?f he cried incredulously. eWhy of
course you can!f
He looked around him wildly, as if the past were lurking
here in the shadow of his house, just out of reach of his
eIfm going to fix everything just the way it was before,f he
said, nodding determinedly. eShefll see.f
He talked a lot about the past and I gathered that he want-
ed to recover something, some idea of himself perhaps, that
had gone into loving Daisy. His life had been confused and
disordered since then, but if he could once return to a cer-
tain starting place and go over it all slowly, he could find
out what that thing was....
....One autumn night, five years before, they had been walk-
ing down the street when the leaves were falling, and they
came to a place where there were no trees and the sidewalk
was white with moonlight. They stopped here and turned to-
ward each other. Now it was a cool night with that mysterious
excitement in it which comes at the two changes of the year.
The quiet lights in the houses were humming out into the
darkness and there was a stir and bustle among the stars.
Out of the corner of his eye Gatsby saw that the blocks of
the sidewalk really formed a ladder and mounted to a secret
place above the trees--he could climb to it, if he climbed
alone, and once there he could suck on the pap of life, gulp
down the incomparable milk of wonder.
His heart beat faster and faster as Daisyfs white face came
up to his own. He knew that when he kissed this girl, and
forever wed his unutterable visions to her perishable breath,
his mind would never romp again like the mind of God. So
he waited, listening for a moment longer to the tuning fork
that had been struck upon a star. Then he kissed her. At his
lipsf touch she blossomed for him like a flower and the in-
carnation was complete.
Through all he said, even through his appalling sentimentality,
I was reminded of something--an elusive rhythm, a fragment
of lost words, that I had heard somewhere a long time ago.
For a moment a phrase tried to take shape in my mouth and
my lips parted like a dumb manfs, as though there was more
struggling upon them than a wisp of startled air. But they
made no sound and what I had almost remembered was un-
It was when curiosity about Gatsby was at its highest that
the lights in his house failed to go on one Saturday night--
and, as obscurely as it had begun, his career as Trimalchio1
was over. Only gradually did I become aware that the automo-
biles which turned expectantly into his drive stayed for just a
minute and then drove sulkily away. Wondering if he were sick
I went over to find out--an unfamiliar butler with a villainous
face squinted at me suspiciously from the door.
eIs Mr. Gatsby sick?f
eNope.f After a pause he added esirf in a dilatory, grudging
eI hadnft seen him around, and I was rather worried. Tell
him Mr. Carraway came over.f
eWho?f he demanded rudely.
eCarraway. All right, Ifll tell him.f Abruptly he slammed
My Finn informed me that Gatsby had dismissed every
servant in his house a week ago and replaced them with
half a dozen others, who never went into West Egg Village
to be bribed by the tradesmen, but ordered moderate supplies
over the telephone. The grocery boy reported that the
kitchen looked like a pigsty, and the general opinion in the
village was that the new people werenft servants at all.
Next day Gatsby called me on the phone.
eGoing away?f I inquired.
eNo, old sport.f
eI hear you fired all your servants.f
eI wanted somebody who wouldnft gossip. Daisy comes
over quite often--in the afternoons.f
So the whole caravansary2 had fallen in like a card house
at the disapproval in her eyes.
eTheyfre some people Wolfshiem wanted to do something
for. Theyfre all brothers and sisters. They used to run
a small hotel.f
He was calling up at Daisyfs request--would I come to
lunch at her house tomorrow? Miss Baker would be there.
Half an hour later Daisy herself telephoned and seemed
relieved to find that I was coming. Something was up. And
yet I couldnft believe that they would choose this occasion
for a scene--especially for the rather harrowing scene that
Gatsby had outlined in the garden.
The next day was broiling, almost the last, certainly the
warmest, of the summer. As my train emerged from the
tunnel into sunlight, only the hot whistles of the National
Biscuit Company broke the simmering hush at 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 white shirtwaist, and then, as her newspaper dampened
under her fingers, lapsed despairingly into deep heat with a
desolate cry. Her pocket-book slapped to the floor.
eOh, my!f she gasped.
I picked it up with a weary bend and handed it back to her,
holding it at armfs length and by the extreme tip of the cor-
ners to indicate that I had no designs upon it--but every
one near by, including the woman, suspected me just the
eHot!f said the conductor to familiar faces. eSome weather!
Hot! Hot! Hot! Is it hot enough for you? Is it hot? Is it....?f
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 Buchanansf house blew a faint
wind, carrying the sound of the telephone bell out to Gatsby
and me as we waited at the door.
eThe masterfs body!f roared the butler into the mouthpiece.
eIfm sorry, madame, but we canft furnish it--itfs far too
hot to touch this noon!f
What he really said was: eYes....yes....Ifll see.f
He set down the receiver and came toward us, glistening
slightly, to take our stiff straw hats.
eMadame expects you in the salon!f he cried, needlessly
indicating the direction. In this heat every extra gesture
was an affront to the common store of life.
The room, shadowed well with awnings, was dark and
cool. Daisy and Jordan lay upon an enormous couch, like
silver idols, weighing down their own white dresses against
the singing breeze of the fans.
eWe canft move,f they said together.
Jordanfs fingers, powdered white over their tan, rested
for a moment in mine.
eAnd Mr. Thomas Buchanan, the athlete?f I inquired.
Simultaneously I heard his voice, gruff, muffled, husky,
at the hall telephone.
Gatsby stood in the center of the crimson carpet and
gazed around with fascinated eyes. Daisy watched him and
laughed, her sweet, exciting laugh; a tiny gust of powder
rose from her bosom into the air.
eThe rumor is,f whispered Jordan, ethat thatfs Tomfs girl
on the telephone.f
We were silent. The voice in the hall rose high with annoy-
ance. eVery well, then, I wonft sell you the car at all....
Ifm under no obligations to you at all.... And as for your
bothering me about it at lunch time I wonft stand that at
eHolding down the receiver,f said Daisy cynically.
eNo, hefs not,f I assured her. eItfs a bona fide deal. I happen
to know about it.f
Tom flung open the door, blocked out its space for a moment
with his thick body, and hurried into the room.
eMr. Gatsby!f He put out his broad, flat hand with well-conce-
aleddislike. eIfm glad to see you, sir..... Nick.....f
eMake us a cold drink,f cried Daisy.
As he left the room again she got up and went over
to Gatsby and pulled his face down kissing him on the
eYou know I love you,f she murmured.
eYou forget therefs a lady present,f said Jordan.
Daisy looked around doubtfully.
eYou kiss Nick too.f
eWhat a low, vulgar girl!f
eI donft care!f cried Daisy and began to clog on the brick
fireplace. Then she remembered the heat and sat down guiltily
on the couch just as a freshly laundered nurse leading a
little girl came into the room.
eBles-sed pre-cious,f she crooned, holding out her arms.
eCome to your own mother that loves you.f
The child, relinquished by the nurse, rushed across the
room and rooted shyly into her motherfs dress.
eThe Bles-sed pre-cious! Did mother get powder on your
old yellowy hair? Stand up now, and say How-de-do.f
Gatsby and I in turn leaned down and took the small reluctant
hand. Afterward he kept looking at the child with surprise. I
donft think he had ever really believed in its existence be-
eI got dressed before luncheon,f said the child, turning
eagerly to Daisy.
eThatfs because your mother wanted to show you off.f Her
face bent into the single wrinkle of the small white neck.
eYou dream, you. You absolute little dream.f
eYes,f admitted the child calmly. eAunt Jordanfs got on a
white dress too.f
eHow do you like motherfs friends?f Daisy turned her a-
round so that she faced Gatsby. eDo you think theyfre pret-
eShe doesnft look like her father,f explained Daisy. eShe
looks like me. Shefs got my hair and shape of the face.f
Daisy sat back upon the couch. The nurse took a step for-
ward and held out her hand.
With a reluctant backward glance the well-disciplined
child held to her nursefs 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.
eThey certainly look cool,f he said, with visible tension.
We drank in long greedy swallows.
eI read somewhere that the sunfs getting hotter every
year,f said Tom genially. eIt seems that pretty soon the
earthfs going to fall into the sun--or wait a minute--itfs
just the opposite--the sunfs getting colder every year.
eCome outside,f he suggested to Gatsby, eIfd like you to
have a look at the place.f
I went with them out to the veranda. On the green Sound,
stagnant in the heat, one small sail crawled slowly toward
the fresher sea. Gatsbyfs eyes followed it momentarily; he
raised his hand and pointed across the bay.
eIfm right across from you.f
eSo you are.f
Our eyes lifted over the rosebeds and the hot lawn and
the weedy refuse of the dog days along shore. Slowly the
white wings of the boat moved against the blue cool limit of
the sky. Ahead lay the scalloped ocean and the abounding
eTherefs sport for you,f said Tom, nodding. eIfd like to be
out there with him for about an hour.f
We had luncheon in the dining-room, darkened, too, against
the heat, and drank down nervous gayety with the cold ale.
eWhatfll we do with ourselves this afternoon,f cried Daisy,
eand the day after that, and the next thirty years?f
eDonft be morbid,f Jordan said. eLife starts all over again
when it gets crisp in the fall.f
eBut itfs so hot,f insisted Daisy, on the verge of tears, eAnd
everythingfs so confused. Letfs all go to town!f
Her voice struggled on through the heat, beating against
it, moulding its senselessness into forms.
eIfve heard of making a garage out of a stable,f Tom was
saying to Gatsby, ebut Ifm the first man who ever made a
stable out of a garage.f
eWho wants to go to town?f demanded Daisy insistently.
Gatsbyfs eyes floated toward her. eAh,f she cried, eyou look
Their eyes met, and they stared together at each other,
alone in space. With an effort she glanced down at the table.
eYou always look so cool,f she repeated.
She had told him that she loved him, and Tom Buchanan saw.
He was astounded. His mouth opened a little and he looked at
Gatsby and then back at Daisy as if he had just recognized
her as some one he knew a long time ago.
eYou resemble the advertisement of the man,f she went on
innocently. eYou know the advertisement of the man----e
eAll right,f broke in Tom quickly, eIfm perfectly willing to
go to town. Come on--wefre all going to town.f
He got up, his eyes still flashing between Gatsby and his
wife. No one moved.
eCome on!f His temper cracked a little. eWhatfs the matter,
anyhow? If wefre going to town letfs start.f
His hand, trembling with his effort at self control, bore
to his lips the last of his glass of ale. Daisyfs voice got us to
our feet and out on to the blazing gravel drive.
eAre we just going to go?f she objected. eLike this? Arenft
we going to let any one smoke a cigarette first?f
eEverybody smoked all through lunch.f
eOh, letfs have fun,f she begged him. eItfs too hot to fuss.f
He didnft answer.
eHave it your own way,f she said. eCome on, Jordan.f
They went upstairs to get ready while we three men stood
there shuffling the hot pebbles with our feet. A silver curve
of the moon hovered already in the western sky. Gatsby
started to speak, changed his mind, but not before Tom
wheeled and faced him expectantly.
eHave you got your stables here?f asked Gatsby with an
eAbout a quarter of a mile down the road.f
eI donft see the idea of going to town,f broke out Tom
savagely. eWomen get these notions in their heads----e
eShall we take anything to drink?f called Daisy from an
eIfll get some whiskey,f answered Tom. He went inside.
Gatsby turned to me rigidly:
eI canft say anything in his house, old sport.f
eShefs got an indiscreet voice,f I remarked. eItfs full of--
eHer voice is full of money,f he said suddenly.
That was it. Ifd never understood before. It was full of
money--that was the inexhaustible charm that rose and fell
in it, the jingle of it, the cymbalsf song of itc. High in a
white palace the kingfs daughter, the golden girlc.
Tom came out of the house wrapping a quart bottle in
a towel, followed by Daisy and Jordan wearing small tight
hats of metallic cloth and carrying light capes over their
eShall we all go in my car?f suggested Gatsby. He felt the
hot, green leather of the seat. eI ought to have left it in the
eIs it standard shift?f demanded Tom.
eWell, you take my coupe and let me drive your car to
The suggestion was distasteful to Gatsby.
eI donft think therefs much gas,f he objected.
ePlenty of gas,f said Tom boisterously. He looked at the
gauge. eAnd if it runs out I can stop at a drug store. You
can buy anything at a drug store nowadays.f
A pause followed this apparently pointless remark. Dai-
sy looked at Tom frowning and an indefinable expression,
at once definitely unfamiliar and vaguely recognizable, as if
I had only heard it described in words, passed over Gatsbyfs
eCome on, Daisy,f said Tom, pressing her with his hand
toward Gatsbyfs car. eIfll take you in this circus wagon.f
He opened the door but she moved out from the circle
of his arm.
eYou take Nick and Jordan. Wefll follow you in the coupe.f
She walked close to Gatsby, touching his coat with her hand.
Jordan and Tom and I got into the front seat of Gatsbyfs
car, Tom pushed the unfamiliar gears tentatively and we shot
off into the oppressive heat leaving them out of sight behind.
eDid you see that?f demanded Tom.
He looked at me keenly, realizing that Jordan and I must
have known all along.
eYou think Ifm pretty dumb, donft you?f he suggested. ePer-
haps I am, but I have a--almost a second sight, sometimes,
that tells me what to do. Maybe you donft believe that, but
He paused. The immediate contingency overtook him,
pulled him back from the edge of the theoretical abyss.
eIfve made a small investigation of this fellow,f he continued.
eI could have gone deeper if Ifd known----e
eDo you mean youfve been to a medium?f inquired Jordan
eWhat?f Confused, he stared at us as we laughed. eA medium?f
eAbout Gatsby! No, I havenft. I said Ifd been making a
small investigation of his past.f
eAnd you found he was an Oxford man,f said Jordan
eAn Oxford man!f He was incredulous. eLike hell he is!
He wears a pink suit.f
eNevertheless hefs an Oxford man.f
eOxford, New Mexico,f snorted Tom contemptuously, eor
something like that.f
eListen, Tom. If youfre such a snob, why did you invite
him to lunch?f demanded Jordan crossly.
eDaisy invited him; she knew him before we were married--
God knows where!f
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. Eckle-
burgfs faded eyes came into sight down the road, I rememb-
ered Gatsbyfs caution about gasoline.
eWefve got enough to get us to town,f said Tom.
eBut therefs a garage right here,f objected Jordan. eI donft
want to get stalled in this baking heat.f
Tom threw on both brakes impatiently and we slid to an
abrupt dusty stop under Wilsonfs sign. After a moment the
proprietor emerged from the interior of his establishment
and gazed hollow-eyed at the car.
eLetfs have some gas!f cried Tom roughly. eWhat do you
think we stopped for--to admire the view?f
eIfm sick,f said Wilson without moving. eI been sick all
eWhatfs the matter?f
eIfm all run down.f
eWell, shall I help myself?f Tom demanded. eYou sounded
well enough on the phone.f
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 face was green.
eI didnft mean to interrupt your lunch,f he said. eBut I
need money pretty bad and I was wondering what you were
going to do with your old car.f
eHow do you like this one?f inquired Tom. eI bought it
eItfs a nice yellow one,f said Wilson, as he strained at the
eLike to buy it?f
eBig chance,f Wilson smiled faintly. eNo, but I could make
some money on the other.f
eWhat do you want money for, all of a sudden?f
eIfve been here too long. I want to get away. My wife and
I want to go west.f
eYour wife does!f exclaimed Tom, startled.
eShefs been talking about it for ten years.f He rested for
a moment against the pump, shading his eyes. eAnd now
shefs going whether she wants to or not. Ifm going to get
The coupe flashed by us with a flurry of dust and the
flash of a waving hand.
eWhat do I owe you?f demanded Tom harshly.
eI just got wised up to something funny the last two days,f
remarked Wilson. eThatfs why I want to get away. Thatfs why
I been bothering you about the car.f
eWhat do I owe you?f
The relentless beating heat was beginning to confuse me
and I had a bad moment there before I realized that so far
his suspicions hadnft alighted on Tom. He had discovered
that Myrtle had some sort of life apart from him in another
world and the shock had made him physically sick. I stared
at him and then at Tom, who had made a parallel discovery
less than an hour before--and it occurred to me that there
was no difference between men, in intelligence or race, so
profound as the difference between the sick and the well.
Wilson was so sick that he looked guilty, unforgivably guilty
--as if he had just got some poor girl with child.
eIfll let you have that car,f said Tom. eIfll send it over to-
That locality was always vaguely disquieting, even in
the broad glare of afternoon, and now I turned my head as
though I had been warned of something behind. Over the
ashheaps the giant eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg kept their
vigil but I perceived, after a moment, that other eyes were
regarding us with peculiar intensity from less than twenty
In one of the windows over the garage the curtains had been
moved aside a little and Myrtle Wilson was peering down at the
car. So engrossed was she that she had no consciousness of
being observed and one emotion after another crept into her
face like objects into a slowly developing picture. Her express-
ion was curiously familiar--it was an expression I had often
seen on womenfs faces but on Myrtle Wilsonfs face it seem-
ed purposeless and inexplicable until I realized that her eyes,
wide with jealous terror, were fixed not on Tom, but on Jordan
Baker, whom she took to be his wife.
There is no confusion like the confusion of a simple mind,
and as we drove away Tom was feeling the hot whips of
panic. His wife and his mistress, until an hour ago secure
and inviolate, were slipping precipitately from his control.
Instinct made him step on the accelerator with the double
purpose of overtaking Daisy and leaving Wilson behind,
and we sped along toward Astoria at fifty miles an hour,
until, among the spidery girders of the elevated, we came
in sight of the easygoing blue coupe.
eThose big movies around Fiftieth Street are cool,f suggested
Jordan. eI love New York on summer afternoons when every
onefs away. Therefs something very sensuous about it--o-
verripe, as if all sorts of funny fruits were going to fall into
The word esensuousf had the effect of further disquieting
Tom but before he could invent a protest the coupe came to
a stop and Daisy signalled us to draw up alongside.
eWhere are we going?f she cried.
eHow about the movies?f
eItfs so hot,f she complained. eYou go. Wefll ride around
and meet you after.f With an effort her wit rose faintly,
eWefll meet you on some corner. Ifll be the man smoking
eWe canft argue about it here,f Tom said impatiently as a
truck gave out a cursing whistle behind us. eYou follow me
to the south side of Central Park, in front of the Plaza.f
Several times he turned his head and looked back for
their car, and if the traffic delayed them he slowed up until
they came into sight. I think he was afraid they would dart
down a side street and out of his life forever.
But they didnft. And we all took the less explicable step
of engaging the parlor of a suite in the Plaza Hotel.
The prolonged and tumultuous argument that ended by herd-
ing us into that room eludes me, though I have a sharp phy-
sical memory that, in the course of it, my underwear kept
climbing like a damp snake around my legs and intermittent
beads of sweat raced cool across my back. The notion ori-
ginated with Daisyfs suggestion that we hire five bathrooms
and take cold baths, and then assumed more tangible form
as ea place to have a mint julep.f Each of us said over and
over that it was a ecrazy ideaf--we all talked at once to a
baffled clerk and thought, or pretended to think, that we
were being very funny....
The room was large and stifling, and, though it was already
four ofclock, opening the windows admitted only a gust of
hot shrubbery from the Park. Daisy went to the mirror and
stood with her back to us, fixing her hair.
eItfs a swell suite,f whispered Jordan respectfully and every
eOpen another window,f commanded Daisy, without
eThere arenft any more.f
eWell, wefd better telephone for an axe----e
eThe thing to do is to forget about the heat,f said Tom im-
patiently. eYou make it ten times worse by crabbing about
He unrolled the bottle of whiskey from the towel and put
it on the table.
eWhy not let her alone, old sport?f remarked Gatsby.
eYoufre the one that wanted to come to town.f
There was a moment of silence. The telephone book
slipped from its nail and splashed to the floor, whereupon
Jordan whispered eExcuse mef--but this time no one
eIfll pick it up,f I offered.
eIfve got it.f Gatsby examined the parted string, muttered
eHum!f in an interested way, and tossed the book on a
eThatfs a great expression of yours, isnft it?f said Tom
eAll this eold sportf business. Wherefd you pick that up?f
eNow see here, Tom,f said Daisy, turning around from the
mirror, eif youfre going to make personal remarks I wonft
stay here a minute. Call up and order some ice for the
As Tom took up the receiver the compressed heat exploded
into sound and we were listening to the portentous chords
of Mendelssohnfs Wedding March from the ballroom below.
eImagine marrying anybody in this heat!f cried Jordan
eStill--I was married in the middle of June,f Daisy remembered,
eLouisville in June! Somebody fainted. Who
was it fainted, Tom?f
eBiloxi,f he answered shortly.
eA man named Biloxi. eBlocksf Biloxi, and he made boxes--thatfs
a fact--and he was from Biloxi, Tennessee.f
eThey carried him into my house,f appended Jordan, ebe-
cause we lived just two doors from the church. And he
stayed three weeks, until Daddy told him he had to get out.
The day after he left Daddy died.f After a moment she added
as if she might have sounded irreverent, eThere wasnft any
eI used to know a Bill Biloxi from Memphis,f I remarked.
eThat was his cousin. I knew his whole family history be-
fore he left. He gave me an aluminum putter that I use
The music had died down as the ceremony began and now
a long cheer floated in at the window, followed by intermit-
tent cries of eYea--ea--ea!f and finally by a burst of jazz
as the dancing began.
eWefre getting old,f said Daisy. eIf we were young wefd
rise and dance.f
eRemember Biloxi,f Jordan warned her. eWherefd you
know him, Tom?f
eBiloxi?f He concentrated with an effort. eI didnft know
him. He was a friend of Daisyfs.f
eHe was not,f she denied. eIfd never seen him before. He
came down in the private car.f
eWell, 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 room for him.f
eHe was probably bumming his way home. He told me he
was president of your class at Yale.f
Tom and I looked at each other blankly.
eFirst place, we didnft have any president----e
Gatsbyfs foot beat a short, restless tattoo and Tom eyed
eBy the way, Mr. Gatsby, I understand youfre an Oxford
eOh, yes, I understand you went to Oxford.f
eYes--I went there.f
A pause. Then Tomfs voice, incredulous and insulting:
eYou must have gone there about the time Biloxi went to
Another pause. A waiter knocked and came in with crushed
mint and ice but the silence was unbroken by his eThank
youf and the soft closing of the door. This tremendous
detail was to be cleared up at last.
eI told you I went there,f said Gatsby.
eI heard you, but Ifd like to know when.f
eIt was in nineteen-nineteen, I only stayed five months.
Thatfs why I canft really call myself an Oxford man.f
Tom glanced around to see if we mirrored his unbelief.
But we were all looking at Gatsby.
eIt was an opportunity they gave to some of the officers
after the Armistice,f he continued. eWe could go to any of
the universities in England or France.f
I wanted to get up and slap him on the back. I had one of
those renewals of complete faith in him that Ifd experien-
Daisy rose, smiling faintly, and went to the table.
eOpen the whiskey, Tom,f she ordered. eAnd Ifll make you
a mint julep. Then you wonft seem so stupid to yourself....
Look at the mint!f
eWait a minute,f snapped Tom, eI want to ask Mr. Gatsby
one more question.f
eGo on,f Gatsby said politely.
eWhat kind of a row are you trying to cause in my house
They were out in the open at last and Gatsby was content.
eHe isnft causing a row.f Daisy looked desperately from
one to the other. eYoufre causing a row. Please have a little
eSelf control!f repeated Tom incredulously. eI suppose the
latest thing is to sit back and let Mr. Nobody from Nowhere
make love to your wife. Well, if thatfs the idea you can count
me outc. Nowadays people begin by sneering at family
life and family institutions and next theyfll throw everything
overboard and have intermarriage between black and white.f
Flushed with his impassioned gibberish he saw himself
standing alone on the last barrier of civilization.
eWefre all white here,f murmured Jordan.
eI know Ifm not very popular. I donft give big parties. I
suppose youfve got to make your house into a pigsty in order
to have any friends--in the modern world.f
Angry as I was, as we all were, I was tempted to laugh
whenever he opened his mouth. The transition from libertine
to prig was so complete.
eIfve got something to tell you, old sport,----f began
Gatsby. But Daisy guessed at his intention.
ePlease donft!f she interrupted helplessly. ePlease letfs all
go home. Why donft we all go home?f
eThatfs a good idea.f I got up. eCome on, Tom. Nobody
wants a drink.f
eI want to know what Mr. Gatsby has to tell me.f
eYour wife doesnft love you,f said Gatsby. eShefs never
loved you. She loves me.f
eYou must be crazy!f exclaimed Tom automatically.
Gatsby sprang to his feet, vivid with excitement.
eShe never loved you, do you hear?f he cried. eShe only
married you because I was poor and she was tired of waiting
for me. It was a terrible mistake, but in her heart she
never loved any one except me!f
At this point Jordan and I tried to go but Tom and Gatsby
insisted with competitive firmness that we remain--as
though neither of them had anything to conceal and it
would be a privilege to partake vicariously of their emo-
eSit down Daisy.f Tomfs voice groped unsuccessfully for
the paternal note. eWhatfs been going on? I want to hear all
eI told you whatfs been going on,f said Gatsby. eGoing on
for five years--and you didnft know.f
Tom turned to Daisy sharply.
eYoufve been seeing this fellow for five years?f
eNot seeing,f said Gatsby. eNo, we couldnft meet. But both
of us loved each other all that time, old sport, and you didnft
know. I used to laugh sometimes--ebut there was no laughter
in his eyes, eto think that you didnft know.f
eOh--thatfs all.f Tom tapped his thick fingers together
like a clergyman and leaned back in his chair.
eYoufre crazy!f he exploded. eI canft speak about what
happened five years ago, because I didnft know Daisy then--
and Ifll be damned if I see how you got within a mile of her
unless you brought the groceries to the back door. But all
the rest of thatfs a God damned lie. Daisy loved me when
she married me and she loves me now.f
eNo,f said Gatsby, shaking his head.
eShe does, though. The trouble is that sometimes she gets
foolish ideas in her head and doesnft know what shefs doing.f
He nodded sagely. eAnd whatfs more, I love Daisy too.
Once in a while I go off on a spree and make a fool of myself,
but I always come back, and in my heart I love her all
eYoufre revolting,f said Daisy. She turned to me, and her
voice, dropping an octave lower, filled the room with thrill-
ing scorn: eDo you know why we left Chicago? Ifm surprised
that they didnft treat you to the story of that little spree.f
Gatsby walked over and stood beside her.
eDaisy, thatfs all over now,f he said earnestly. eIt doesnft
matter any more. Just tell him the truth--that you never
loved him--and itfs all wiped out forever.f
She looked at him blindly. eWhy,--how could I love him--
eYou never loved him.f
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 had never, all along, intended doing
anything at all. But it was done now. It was too late.
eI never loved him,f she said, with perceptible reluctance.
eNot at Kapiolani?f demanded Tom suddenly.
From the ballroom beneath, muffled and suffocating chords
were drifting up on hot waves of air.
eNot that day I carried you down from the Punch Bowl to
keep your shoes dry?f There was a husky tenderness in his
ePlease donft.f Her voice was cold, but the rancour was
gone from it. She looked at Gatsby. eThere, Jay,f she said--
but her hand as she tried to light a cigarette was trembling.
Suddenly she threw the cigarette and the burning match on
eOh, you want too much!f she cried to Gatsby. eI love you
now--isnft that enough? I canft help whatfs past.f She began
to sob helplessly. eI did love him once--but I loved you too.f
Gatsbyfs eyes opened and closed.
eYou loved me too?f he repeated.
eEven thatfs a lie,f said Tom savagely. eShe didnft know
you were alive. Why,--therefre things between Daisy and
me that youfll never know, things that neither of us can ever
The words seemed to bite physically into Gatsby.
eI want to speak to Daisy alone,f he insisted. eShefs all excited
eEven alone I canft say I never loved Tom,f she admitted
in a pitiful voice. eIt wouldnft be true.f
eOf course it wouldnft,f agreed Tom.
She turned to her husband.
eAs if it mattered to you,f she said.
eOf course it matters. Ifm going to take better care of you
from now on.f
eYou donft understand,f said Gatsby, with a touch of panic.
eYoufre not going to take care of her any more.f
eIfm not?f Tom opened his eyes wide and laughed. He
could afford to control himself now. eWhyfs that?f
eDaisyfs leaving you.f
eI am, though,f she said with a visible effort.
eShefs not leaving me!f Tomfs words suddenly leaned
down over Gatsby. eCertainly not for a common swindler
whofd have to steal the ring he put on her finger.f
eI wonft stand this!f cried Daisy. eOh, please letfs get out.f
eWho are you, anyhow?f broke out Tom. eYoufre one of
that bunch that hangs around with Meyer Wolfshiem--that
much I happen to know. Ifve made a little investigation into
your affairs--and Ifll carry it further tomorrow.f
eYou can suit yourself about that, old sport.f said Gatsby
eI found out what your edrug storesf were.f He turned to
us and spoke rapidly. eHe and this Wolfshiem bought up a
lot of side-street drug stores here and in Chicago and sold
grain alcohol over the counter. Thatfs one of his little stunts.
I picked him for a bootlegger the first time I saw him and I
wasnft far wrong.f
eWhat about it?f said Gatsby politely. eI guess your friend
Walter Chase wasnft too proud to come in on it.f
eAnd you left him in the lurch, didnft you? You let him go
to jail for a month over in New Jersey. God! You ought to
hear Walter on the subject of you.f
eHe came to us dead broke. He was very glad to pick up
some money, old sport.f
eDonft you call me eold sportf!f cried Tom. Gatsby said
nothing. eWalter could have you up on the betting laws too,
but Wolfshiem scared him into shutting his mouth.f
That unfamiliar yet recognizable look was back again in
eThat drug store business was just small change,f contin-
ued Tom slowly, ebut youfve got something on now that
Walterfs afraid to tell me about.f
I glanced at Daisy who was staring terrified between
Gatsby and her husband and at Jordan who had begun to
balance an invisible but absorbing object on the tip of her
chin. Then I turned back to Gatsby--and was startled at
his expression. He looked--and this is said in all contempt
for the babbled slander of his garden--as if he had ekilled
a man.f For a moment the set of his face could be describ-
ed in just 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 with every word she was drawing
further and further into herself, so he gave that up and only
the dead dream fought on as the afternoon slipped away,
trying to touch what was no longer tangible, struggling un-
happily, undespairingly, toward that lost voice across the
The voice begged again to go.
ePlease, Tom! I canft stand this any more.f
Her frightened eyes told that whatever intentions, whatever
courage she had had, were definitely gone.
eYou two start on home, Daisy,f said Tom. eIn Mr. Gatsbyfs
She looked at Tom, alarmed now, but he insisted with
eGo on. He wonft annoy you. I think he realizes that his
presumptuous little flirtation is over.f
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 of whiskey in the towel.
eWant any of this stuff? Jordan?....Nick?f
I didnft answer.
eNick?f He asked again.
eNo....I just remembered that todayfs my birthday.f
I was thirty. Before me stretched the portentous menacing
road of a new decade.
It was seven ofclock when we got into the coupe with him
and started for Long Island. Tom talked incessantly, exulting
and laughing, but his voice was as remote from Jordan
and me as the foreign clamor on the sidewalk or the tumult
of the elevated overhead. Human sympathy has its limits
and we were content to let all their tragic arguments fade
with the city lights behind. Thirty--the promise of a decade
of loneliness, a thinning list of single men to know, a thinning
brief-case of enthusiasm, thinning hair. But there was
Jordan beside me who, unlike Daisy, was too wise ever to
carry well-forgotten dreams from age to age. As we passed
over the dark bridge her wan face fell lazily against my coatfs
shoulder and the formidable stroke of thirty 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
the ashheaps was the principal witness at the inquest.
He had slept through the heat until after five, when he
strolled over to the garage and found George Wilson sick in
his office--really sick, pale as his own pale hair and shaking
all over. Michaelis advised him to go to bed but Wilson refused,
saying that hefd miss a lot of business if he did. While
his neighbor was trying to persuade him a violent racket
broke out overhead.
eIfve got my wife locked in up there,f explained Wilson
calmly. eShefs going to stay there till the day after tomorrow
and then wefre going to move away.f
Michaelis was astonished; they had been neighbors for
four years and Wilson had never seemed faintly capable of
such a statement. Generally he was one of these worn-out
men: when he wasnft working he sat on a chair in the doorway
and stared at the people and the cars that passed along
the road. When any one spoke to him he invariably laughed
in an agreeable, colorless way. He was his wifefs man and
not his own.
So naturally Michaelis tried to find out what had happened,
but Wilson wouldnft say a word--instead he began to throw
curious, suspicious glances at his visitor and ask him what
hefd been doing at certain times on certain days. Just as
the latter was getting uneasy some workmen came past the
door bound for his restaurant and Michaelis took the oppor-
tunity to get away, intending to come back later. But he
didnft. He supposed he forgot to, thatfs all. When he came
outside again a little after seven he was reminded of the
conversation because he heard Mrs. Wilsonfs voice, loud
and scolding, downstairs in the garage.
eBeat me!f he heard her cry. eThrow me down and beat
me, you dirty little coward!f
A moment later she rushed out into the dusk, waving her
hands and shouting; before he could move from his door
the business was over.
The edeath carf as the newspapers called it, didnft stop;
it came out of the gathering darkness, wavered tragically
for a moment and then disappeared around the next bend.
Michaelis wasnft even sure of its color--he told the first
policeman that it was light green. The other car, the one going
toward New York, came to rest a hundred yards beyond,
and its driver hurried back to where Myrtle Wilson, her life
violently extinguished, knelt in the road and mingled her
thick, dark blood with the dust.
Michaelis and this man reached her first but when they
had torn open her shirtwaist still damp with perspiration,
they saw that her left breast was swinging loose like a flap
and there was no need to listen for the heart beneath. The
mouth was wide open and ripped at the corners as though
she had choked a little in giving up the tremendous vitality
she had stored so long.
We saw the three or four automobiles and the crowd
when we were still some distance away.
eWreck!f said Tom. eThatfs good. Wilsonfll have a little
business at last.f
He slowed down, but still without any intention of stopping
until, as we came nearer, the hushed intent faces of the
people at the garage door made him automatically put on
eWefll take a look,f he said doubtfully, ejust a look.f
I became aware now of a hollow, wailing sound which issu-
ed incessantly from the garage, a sound which as we got
out of the coupe and walked toward the door resolved itself
into the words eOh, my God!f uttered over and over in
a gasping moan.
eTherefs some bad trouble here,f said Tom excitedly.
He reached up on tiptoes and peered over a circle of
heads into the garage which was lit only by a yellow light
in a swinging wire basket overhead. Then he made a harsh
sound in his throat and with a violent thrusting movement
of his powerful arms pushed his way through.
The circle closed up again with a running murmur of ex-
postulation; it was a minute before I could see anything at
all. Then new arrivals disarranged the line and Jordan and I
were pushed suddenly inside.
Myrtle Wilsonfs body wrapped in a blanket and then in an-
other blanket as though she suffered from a chill in the
hot night lay on a work table by the wall and Tom, with
his back to us, was bending over it, motionless. Next to
him stood a motorcycle policeman taking down names
with much sweat and correction in a little book. At first I
couldnft find the source of the high, groaning words that
echoed clamorously through the bare garage--then I saw
Wilson standing on the raised threshold of his office, sway-
ing back and forth and holding to the doorposts with both
hands. Some man was talking to him in a low voice and
attempting from time to time to lay a hand on his shoulder,
but Wilson neither heard nor saw. His eyes would drop slow-
ly from the swinging light to the laden table by the wall and
then jerk back to the light again and he gave out incessantly
his high horrible call.
eO, my Ga-od! O, my Ga-od! Oh, Ga-od! Oh, my Gaod!f
Presently Tom lifted his head with a jerk and after staring
around the garage with glazed eyes addressed a mumbled
incoherent remark to the policeman.
eM-a-v--f the policeman was saying, e--o----e
eNo,--r--f corrected the man, eM-a-v-r-o----e
eListen to me!f muttered Tom fiercely.
er--f said the policeman, eo----e
eg--f He looked up as Tomfs broad hand fell sharply on
his shoulder. eWhat you want, fella?f
eWhat happened--thatfs what I want to know!f
eAuto hit her. Insfantly killed.f
eInstantly killed,f repeated Tom, staring.
eShe ran out ina road. Son-of-a-bitch didnft even stopus
eThere was two cars,f said Michaelis, eone cominf, one
eGoing where?f asked the policeman keenly.
eOne goinf each way. Well, she--f His hand rose toward
the blankets but stopped half way and fell to his side, e--she
ran out there anf the one cominf from NfYork knock right
into her goinf thirty or forty miles an hour.f
eWhatfs the name of this place here?f demanded the officer.
eHasnft got any name.f
A pale, well-dressed Negro stepped near.
eIt was a yellow car,f he said, ebig yellow car. New.f
eSee the accident?f asked the policeman.
eNo, but the car passed me down the road, going fasterfn
forty. Going fifty, sixty.f
eCome here and letfs have your name. Look out now. I
want to get his name.f
Some words of this conversation must have reached Wilson
swaying in the office door, for suddenly a new theme found
voice among his gasping cries.
eYou donft have to tell me what kind of car it was! I know
what kind of car it was!f
Watching Tom I saw the wad of muscle back of his shoulder
tighten under his coat. He walked quickly over to Wilson and
standing in front of him seized him firmly by the upper arms.
eYoufve got to pull yourself together,f he said with soothing
Wilsonfs eyes fell upon Tom; he started up on his tiptoes
and then would have collapsed to his knees had not Tom
held him upright.
eListen,f said Tom, shaking him a little. eI just got here a
minute ago, from New York. I was bringing you that coupe
wefve been talking about. That yellow car I was driving this
afternoon wasnft mine, do you hear? I havenft seen it all
Only the Negro and I were near enough to hear what he
said but the policeman caught something in the tone and
looked over with truculent eyes.
eWhatfs all that?f he demanded.
eIfm a friend of his.f Tom turned his head but kept his
hands firm on Wilsonfs body. eHe says he knows the car that
did itc. It was a yellow car.f
Some dim impulse moved the policeman to look suspiciously
eAnd what colorfs your car?f
eItfs a blue car, a coupe.f
eWefve come straight from New York,f I said.
Some one who had been driving a little behind us confirmed
this and the policeman turned away.
eNow, if youfll let me have that name again correct----e
Picking up Wilson like a doll Tom carried him into the
office, set him down in a chair and came back.
eIf somebodyfll come here and sit with him!f he snapped
authoritatively. He watched while the two men standing clos-
est glanced at each other and went unwillingly into the room.
Then Tom shut the door on them and came down the single
step, his eyes avoiding the table. As he passed close to me
he whispered eLetfs get out.f
Self consciously, with his authoritative arms breaking the
way, we pushed 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 down hard and the coupe raced along through
the night. In a little while I heard a low husky sob and saw
that the tears were overflowing down his face.
eThe God Damn coward!f he whimpered. eHe didnft even
stop his car.f
The Buchanansf house floated suddenly toward us
through the dark rustling trees. Tom stopped beside the
porch and looked up at the second floor where two win-
dows bloomed with light among the vines.
eDaisyfs home,f he said. As we got out of the car he glanced
at me and frowned slightly.
eI ought to have dropped you in West Egg, Nick. Therefs
nothing we can do tonight.f
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 of the situation in a few brisk phrases.
eIfll telephone for a taxi to take you home, and while
youfre waiting you and Jordan better go in the kitchen
and have them get you some supper--if you want any.f
He opened the door. eCome in.f
eNo thanks. But Ifd be glad if youfd order me the taxi. Ifll
Jordan put her hand on my arm.
eWonft you come in, Nick?f
I was feeling a little sick and I wanted to be alone. But
Jordan lingered for a moment more.
eItfs only half past nine,f she said.
Ifd be damned if Ifd go in; Ifd had enough of all of them
for one day and suddenly that included Jordan too. She must
have seen something of this in my expression for she turned
abruptly away and ran up the porch steps into the house. I
sat down for a few minutes with my head in my hands, until
I heard the phone taken up inside and the butlerfs voice call-
ing a taxi. Then I walked slowly down the drive away from
the house intending to wait by the gate.
I hadnft gone twenty yards when I heard my name and
Gatsby stepped from between two bushes into the path. I
must have felt pretty weird by that time because I could
think of nothing except the luminosity of his pink suit under
eWhat are you doing?f I inquired.
eJust standing here, old sport.f
Somehow, that seemed a despicable occupation. For all I
knew he was going to rob the house in a moment; I wouldnft
have been surprised to see sinister faces, the faces of eWolf-
shiemfs people,f behind him in the dark shrubbery.
eDid you see any trouble on the road?f he asked after a
eWas she killed?f
eI thought so; I told Daisy I thought so. Itfs better that the
shock should all come at once. She stood it pretty well.f
He spoke as if Daisyfs reaction was the only thing that
eI got to West Egg by a side road,f he went on, eand left the
car in my garage. I donft think anybody saw us but of course
I canft be sure.f
I disliked him so much by this time that I didnft find it nec-
essary to tell him he was wrong.
eWho was the woman?f he inquired.
eHer name was Wilson. Her husband owns the garage. How
the devil did it happen?f
eWell, I tried to swing the wheel----f He broke off, and
suddenly I guessed at the truth.
eWas Daisy driving?f
eYes,f he said after a moment, ebut of course Ifll say I was.
You see, when we left New York she was very nervous and
she thought it would steady her to drive--and this woman
rushed out at us just as we were passing a car coming the
other way. It all happened in a minute but it seemed to me
that she wanted to speak to us, thought we were somebody
she knew. Well, first Daisy turned away from the woman
toward the other car, and then she lost her nerve and
turned back. The second my hand reached the wheel I felt
the shock--it must have killed her instantly.f
eIt ripped her open----e
eDonft tell me, old sport.f He winced. eAnyhow--Daisy
stepped on it. I tried to make her stop, but she couldnft so I
pulled on the emergency brake. Then she fell over into my
lap and I drove on.
eShefll be all right tomorrow,f he said presently. eIfm just
going to wait here and see if he tries to bother her about that
unpleasantness this afternoon. Shefs locked herself into her
room and if he tries any brutality shefs going to turn the
light out and on again.f
eHe wonft touch her,f I said. eHefs not thinking about
eI donft trust him, old sport.f
eHow long are you going to wait?f
eAll night if necessary. Anyhow till they all go to bed.f
A new point of view occurred to me. Suppose Tom found
out that Daisy had been driving. He might think he saw a
connection in it--he might think anything. I looked at the
house: there were two or three bright windows downstairs
and the pink glow from Daisyfs room on the second floor.
eYou wait here,f I said. eIfll see if therefs any sign of a
I walked back along the border of the lawn, traversed the
gravel softly and 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 dined that June
night three months before I came to a small rectangle of
light which I guessed was the pantry window. The blind was
drawn but I found a rift at the sill.
Daisy and Tom were sitting opposite each other at the
kitchen table with a plate of cold fried chicken between
them and two bottles of ale. He was talking intently across
the table at her and in his earnestness his hand had fallen
upon and covered her own. Once in a while she looked up
at him and nodded in agreement.
They werenft happy, and neither of them had touched the
chicken or the ale--and yet they werenft unhappy either.
There was an unmistakable air of natural intimacy about
the picture and anybody would have said that they were
As I tiptoed from the porch I heard my taxi feeling its way
along the dark road toward the house. Gatsby was waiting
where I had left him in the drive.
eIs it all quiet up there?f he asked anxiously.
eYes, itfs all quiet.f I hesitated. eYoufd better come home
and get some sleep.f
He shook his head.
eI want to wait here till Daisy goes to bed. Good night,
He put his hands in his coat pockets and turned back ea-
gerly to his scrutiny of the house, as though my presence
marred the sacredness of the vigil. So I walked away and left
him standing there in the moonlight--watching over nothing.
I couldnft sleep all night; a fog-horn was groaning incess-
antly on the Sound, and I tossed half-sick between gro-
tesque reality and savage frightening dreams. Toward
dawn I heard a taxi go up Gatsbyfs drive and immediately
I jumped out of bed and began to dress--I felt that I had
something to tell him, something to warn him about and
morning would be too late.
Crossing his lawn I saw that his front door was still open
and he was leaning against a table in the hall, heavy with
dejection or sleep.
eNothing happened,f he said wanly. eI waited, and about
four ofclock she came to the window and stood there for a
minute and then turned out the light.f
His house had never seemed so enormous to me as it did
that night when we hunted through the great rooms for cig-
arettes. We pushed aside curtains that were like pavilions
and felt over innumerable feet of dark wall for electric light
switches--once I tumbled with a sort of splash upon the
keys of a ghostly piano. There was an inexplicable amount
of dust everywhere and the rooms were musty as though
they hadnft been aired for many days. I found the humidor
on an unfamiliar table with two stale dry cigarettes inside.
Throwing open the French windows of the drawing-room
we sat smoking out into the darkness.
eYou ought to go away,f I said. eItfs pretty certain theyfll
trace your car.f
eGo away now, old sport?f
eGo to Atlantic City for a week, or up to Montreal.f
He wouldnft consider it. He couldnft possibly leave Daisy
until he knew what she was going to do. He was clutching
at some last hope and I couldnft bear to shake him free.
It was this night that he told me the strange story of his
youth with Dan Cody--told it to me because eJay Gatsbyf
had broken up like glass against Tomfs hard malice and the
long secret extravaganza was played out. I think that he
would have acknowledged anything, now, without reserve,
but he wanted to talk about Daisy.
She was the first enicef girl he had ever known. In various
unrevealed capacities he had come in contact with such
people but always with indiscernible barbed wire between.
He found her excitingly desirable. He went to her house, at
first with other officers from Camp Taylor, then alone. It
amazed him--he had never been in such a beautiful house
before. But what gave it an air of breathless intensity was
that Daisy lived there--it was as casual a thing to her as his
tent out at camp was to him. There was a ripe mystery about
it, a hint of bedrooms upstairs more beautiful and cool than
other bedrooms, of gay and radiant activities taking place
through its corridors and of romances that were not musty
and laid away already in lavender but fresh and breathing
and redolent of this yearfs shining motor cars and of dances
whose flowers were scarcely withered. It excited him too
that many men had already loved Daisy--it increased her
value in his eyes. He felt their presence all about the house,
pervading the air with the shades and echoes of still vibrant
But he knew that he was in Daisyfs house by a colossal
accident. However glorious might be his future as Jay Gatsby,
he was at present a penniless young man without a past,
and at any moment the invisible cloak of his uniform might
slip from his shoulders. So he made the most of his time. He
took what he could get, ravenously and unscrupulously--
eventually he took Daisy one still October night, took her
because he had no real right to touch her hand.
He might have despised himself, for he had certainly taken
her under false pretenses. I donft mean that he had traded
on his phantom millions, but he had deliberately given Daisy
a sense of security; he let her believe that he was a person
from much the same stratum as herself--that he was fully
able to take care of her. As a matter of fact he had no such
facilities--he had no comfortable family standing behind him
and he was liable at the whim of an impersonal government
to be blown anywhere about the world.
But he didnft despise himself and it didnft turn out as he
had imagined. He had intended, probably, to take what he
could and go--but now he found that he had committed
himself to the following of a grail. He knew that Daisy was
extraordinary but he didnft realize just how extraordinary
a enicef girl could be. She vanished into her rich house, into
her rich, full life, leaving Gatsby--nothing. He felt married
to her, that was all.
When they met again two days later it was Gatsby who was
breathless, who was somehow betrayed. Her porch was
bright with the bought luxury of star-shine; the wicker of
the settee squeaked fashionably as she turned toward him
and he kissed her curious and lovely mouth. She had caught
a cold and it made her voice huskier and more charming
than ever and Gatsby was overwhelmingly aware of the
youth and mystery that wealth imprisons and preserves, of
the freshness of many clothes and of Daisy, gleaming like
silver, safe and proud above the hot struggles of the poor.
eI canft describe to you how surprised I was to find out
I loved her, old sport. I even hoped for a while that shefd
throw me over, but she didnft, because she was in love with
me too. She thought I knew a lot because I knew different
things from her.... Well, there I was, way off my ambitions,
getting deeper in love every minute, and all of a sudden I
didnft care. What was the use of doing great things if I
could have a better time telling her what I was going to
On the last afternoon before he went abroad he sat with
Daisy in his arms for a long, silent time. It was a cold fall
day with fire in the room and her cheeks flushed. Now and
then she moved and he changed his arm a little and once
he kissed her dark shining hair. The afternoon had made
them tranquil for a while as if to give them a deep memory
for the long parting the next day promised. They had never
been closer in their month of love nor communicated more
profoundly one with another than when she brushed silent
lips against his coatfs shoulder or when he touched the end
of her fingers, gently, as though she were asleep.
He did extraordinarily well in the war. He was a captain be-
fore he went to the front and following the Argonne battles
he got his majority and the command of the divisional ma-
chine guns. After the Armistice he tried frantically to get
home but some complication or misunderstanding sent him
to Oxford instead. He was worried now--there was a qual-
ity of nervous despair in Daisyfs letters. She didnft see
why he couldnft come. She was feeling the pressure of the
world outside and she wanted to see him and feel his pre-
sence beside her and be reassured that she was doing the
right thing after all.
For Daisy was young and her artificial world was redolent of
orchids and pleasant, cheerful snobbery and orchestras which
set the rhythm of the year, summing up the sadness and sug-
gestiveness of life in new tunes. All night the saxophones
wailed the hopeless comment of the Beale Street Blues while
a hundred pairs of golden and silver slippers shuffled the shin-
ing dust. At the grey tea hour there were always rooms that
throbbed incessantly with this low sweet fever, while fresh
faces drifted here and there like rose petals blown by the
sad horns around the floor.
Through this twilight universe Daisy began to move again
with the season; suddenly she was again keeping half a
dozen dates a day with half a dozen men and drowsing
asleep at dawn with the beads and chiffon of an evening
dress tangled among dying orchids on the floor beside her
bed. And all the time something within her was crying for
a decision. She wanted her life shaped now, immediately--
and the decision must be made by some force--of love, of
money, of unquestionable practicality--that was close at
That force took shape in the middle of spring with the arrival
of Tom Buchanan. There was a wholesome bulkiness
about his person and his position and Daisy was flattered.
Doubtless there was a certain struggle and a certain relief.
The letter reached Gatsby while he was still at Oxford.
It was dawn now on Long Island and we went about opening
the rest of the windows downstairs, filling the house
with grey turning, gold turning light. The shadow of a tree
fell abruptly across the dew and ghostly birds began to sing
among the blue leaves. There was a slow pleasant movement
in the air, scarcely a wind, promising a cool lovely day.
eI donft think she ever loved him.f Gatsby turned around
from a window and looked at me challengingly. eYou must
remember, old sport, she was very excited this afternoon.
He told her those things in a way that frightened her--that
made it look as if I was some kind of cheap sharper. And the
result was she hardly knew what she was saying.f
He sat down gloomily.
eOf course she might have loved him, just for a minute,
when they were first married--and loved me more even
then, do you see?f
Suddenly he came out with a curious remark:
eIn any case,f he said, eit was just personal.f
What could you make of that, except to suspect some in-
tensity in his conception of the affair that couldnft be
He came back from France when Tom and Daisy were still
on their wedding trip, and made a miserable but irresistible
journey to Louisville on the last of his army pay. He stayed
there a week, walking the streets where their footsteps had
clicked together through the November night and revisiting
the out-of-the-way places to which they had driven in her
white car. Just as Daisyfs house had always seemed to him
more mysterious and gay than other houses so his idea of
the city itself, even though she was gone from it, was per-
vaded with a melancholy beauty.
He left feeling that if he had searched harder he might have
found her--that he was leaving her behind. The daycoach--
he was penniless now--was hot. He went out to the open
vestibule and sat down on a folding-chair, and the station
slid away and the backs of unfamiliar buildings moved by.
Then out into the spring fields, where a yellow trolley raced
them for a minute with people in it who might once have
seen the pale magic of her face along the casual street.
The track curved and now it was going away from the sun
which, as it sank lower, seemed to spread itself in benedic-
tion over the vanishing city where she had drawn her breath.
He stretched out his hand desperately as if to snatch only a
wisp of air, to save a fragment of the spot that she had made
lovely for him. But it was all going by too fast now for his
blurred eyes and he knew that he had lost that part of it,
the freshest and the best, forever.
It was nine ofclock when we finished breakfast and went
out on the porch. The night had made a sharp difference in
the weather and there was an autumn flavor in the air. The
gardener, the last one of Gatsbyfs former servants, came to
the foot of the steps.
eIfm going to drain the pool today, Mr. Gatsby. Leavesfll
start falling pretty soon and then therefs always trouble
with the pipes.f
eDonft do it today,f Gatsby answered. He turned to me
apologetically. eYou know, old sport, Ifve never used that
pool all summer?f
I looked at my watch and stood up.
eTwelve minutes to my train.f
I didnft want to go to the city. I wasnft worth a decent
stroke of work but it was more than that--I didnft want to
leave Gatsby. I missed that train, and then another, before I
could get myself away.
eIfll call you up,f I said finally.
eDo, old sport.f
eIfll call you about noon.f
We walked slowly down the steps.
eI suppose Daisyfll call too.f He looked at me anxiously as
if he hoped Ifd corroborate this.
eI suppose so.f
We shook hands and I started away. Just before I reached
the hedge I remembered something and turned around.
eTheyfre a rotten crowd,f I shouted across the lawn. eYoufre
worth the whole damn bunch put together.f
Ifve always been glad I said that. It was the only compliment
I ever gave him, because I disapproved of him from beginning
to end. First he nodded politely, and then his face broke into
that radiant and understanding smile, as if wefd been in ec-
static cahoots on that fact all the time. His gorgeous pink
rag of a suit made a bright spot of color against the white
steps and I thought of the night when I first came to his an-
cestral home three months before. The lawn and drive had
been crowded with the faces of those who guessed at his
corruption--and he had stood on those steps, concealing
his incorruptible dream, as he waved them goodbye.
I thanked him for his hospitality. We were always thanking
him for that--I and the others.
eGoodbye,f I called. eI enjoyed breakfast, Gatsby.f
Up in the city I tried for a while to list the quotations
on an interminable amount of stock, then I fell asleep in
my swivel-chair. Just before noon the phone woke me and I
started up with sweat breaking out on my forehead. It was
Jordan Baker; she often called me up at this hour because
the uncertainty of her own movements between hotels and
clubs and private houses made her hard to find in any other
way. Usually her voice came over the wire as something
fresh and cool as if a divot from a green golf links had come
sailing in at the office window but this morning it seemed
harsh and dry.
eIfve left Daisyfs house,f she said. eIfm at Hempstead and
Ifm going down to Southampton this afternoon.f
Probably it had been tactful to leave Daisyfs house, but
the act annoyed me and her next remark made me rigid.
eYou werenft so nice to me last night.f
eHow could it have mattered then?f
Silence for a moment. Then--
eHowever--I want to see you.f
eI want to see you too.f
eSuppose I donft go to Southampton, and come into town
eNo--I donft think this afternoon.f
eItfs impossible this afternoon. Various----e
We talked like that for a while and then abruptly we werenft
talking any longer. I donft know which of us hung up with a
sharp click but I know I didnft care. I couldnft have talked to
her across a tea-table that day if I never talked to her again
in this world.
I called Gatsbyfs house a few minutes later, but the line
was busy. I tried four times; finally an exasperated central
told me the wire was being kept open for long distance
from Detroit. Taking out my time-table I drew a small circle
around the three-fifty train. Then I leaned back in my chair
and tried to think. It was just noon.
When I passed the ashheaps on the train that morning I had
crossed deliberately to the other side of the car. I suppose
therefd be a curious crowd around there all day with little
boys searching for dark spots in the dust and some garru-
lous man telling over and over what had happened until it
became less and less real even to him and he could tell it
no longer and Myrtle Wilsonfs tragic achievement was for-
gotten. Now I want to go back a little and tell what happened
at the garage after we left there the night before.
They had difficulty in locating the sister, Catherine. She
must have broken her rule against drinking that night for
when she arrived she was stupid with liquor and unable to
understand that the ambulance had already gone to Flush-
ing. When they convinced her of this she immediately fain-
ted as if that was the intolerable part of the affair. Someone
kind or curious took her in his car and drove her in the
wake of her sisterfs body.
Until long after midnight a changing crowd lapped up against
the front of the garage while George Wilson rocked himself
back and forth on the couch inside. For a while the door
of the office was open and everyone who came into the
garage glanced irresistibly through it. Finally someone said
it was a shame and closed the door. Michaelis and several
other men were with him--first four or five men, later two
or three men. Still later Michaelis had to ask the last stranger
to wait there fifteen minutes longer while he went back to
his own place and made a pot of coffee. After that he stayed
there alone with Wilson until dawn.
About three ofclock the quality of Wilsonfs incoherent
muttering changed--he grew quieter and began to talk
about the yellow car. He announced that he had a way of
finding out whom the yellow car belonged to, and then he
blurted out that a couple of months ago his wife had come
from the city with her face bruised and her nose swollen.
But when he heard himself say this, he flinched and began
to cry eOh, my God!f again in his groaning voice. Michaelis
made a clumsy attempt to distract him.
eHow long have you been married, George? Come on
there, try and sit still a minute and answer my question.
How long have you been married?f
eEver had any children? Come on, George, sit still--I
asked you a question. Did you ever have any children?f
The hard brown beetles kept thudding against the dull
light and whenever Michaelis heard a car go tearing along
the road outside it sounded to him like the car that hadnft
stopped a few hours before. He didnft like to go into the
garage because the work bench was stained where the body
had been lying so he moved uncomfortably around the office
--he knew every object in it before morning--and from time
to time sat down beside Wilson trying to keep him more quiet.
eHave you got a church you go to sometimes, George? May-
be even if you havenft been there for a long time? Maybe
I could call up the church and get a priest to come over
and he could talk to you, see?f
eDonft belong to any.f
eYou ought to have a church, George, for times like this.
You must have gone to church once. Didnft you get married
in a church? Listen, George, listen to me. Didnft you get
married in a church?f
eThat was a long time ago.f
The effort of answering broke the rhythm of his rocking--
for a moment he was silent. Then the same half knowing,
half bewildered look came back into his faded eyes.
eLook in the drawer there,f he said, pointing at the desk.
eThat drawer--that one.f
Michaelis opened the drawer nearest his hand. There
was nothing in it but a small expensive dog leash made of
leather and braided silver. It was apparently new.
eThis?f he inquired, holding it up.
Wilson stared and nodded.
eI found it yesterday afternoon. She tried to tell me about
it but I knew it was something funny.f
eYou mean your wife bought it?f
eShe had it wrapped in tissue paper on her bureau.f
Michaelis didnft see anything odd in that and he gave Wilson
a dozen reasons why his wife might have bought the dog
leash. But conceivably Wilson had heard some of these
same explanations before, from Myrtle, because he began
saying eOh, my God!f again in a whisper--his comforter left
several explanations in the air.
eThen he killed her,f said Wilson. His mouth dropped
eI have a way of finding out.f
eYoufre morbid, George,f said his friend. eThis has been a
strain to you and you donft know what youfre saying. Youfd
better try and sit quiet till morning.f
eHe murdered her.f
eIt was an accident, George.f
Wilson shook his head. His eyes narrowed and his mouth
widened slightly with the ghost of a superior eHm!f
eI know,f he said definitely, eIfm one of these trusting fellas
and I donft think any harm to nobody, but when I get to
know a thing I know it. It was the man in that car. She ran
out to speak to him and he wouldnft stop.f
Michaelis had seen this too but it hadnft occurred to him
that there was any special significance in it. He believed that
Mrs. Wilson had been running away from her husband,
rather than trying to stop any particular car.
eHow could she of been like that?f
eShefs a deep one,f said Wilson, as if that answered the
He began to rock again and Michaelis stood twisting the
leash in his hand.
eMaybe you got some friend that I could telephone for,
This was a forlorn hope--he was almost sure that Wilson
had no friend: there was not enough of him for his wife. He
was glad a little later when he noticed a change in the room,
a blue quickening by the window, and realized that dawn
wasnft far off. About five ofclock it was blue enough outside
to snap off the light.
Wilsonfs glazed eyes turned out to the ashheaps, where
small grey clouds took on fantastic shape and scurried here
and there in the faint dawn wind.
eI spoke to her,f he muttered, after a long silence. eI told
her she might fool me but she couldnft fool God. I took her
to the window--f With an effort he got up and walked to the
rear window and leaned with his face pressed against it, e--
and I said eGod knows what youfve been doing, everything
youfve been doing. You may fool me but you canft
fool God!f e
Standing behind him Michaelis saw with a shock that he was
looking at the eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg which had just
emerged pale and enormous from the dissolving night.
eGod sees everything,f repeated Wilson.
eThatfs an advertisement,f Michaelis assured him.Something
made him turn away from the window and look back into the
room. But Wilson stood there a long time, his face close to
the window pane, nodding into the twilight.
By six ofclock Michaelis was worn out and grateful for the
sound of a car stopping outside. It was one of the watchers
of the night before who had promised to come back so
he cooked breakfast for three which he and the other man
ate together. Wilson was quieter now and Michaelis went
home to sleep; when he awoke four hours later and hurried
back to the garage Wilson was gone.
His movements--he was on foot all the time--were after-
ward traced to Port Roosevelt and then to Gadfs Hill
where he bought a sandwich that he didnft eat and a cup
of coffee. He must have been tired and walking slowly for
he didnft reach Gadfs Hill until noon. Thus far there was
no difficulty in accounting for his time--there were boys
who had seen a man eacting sort of crazyf and motorists at
whom he stared oddly from the side of the road. Then for
three hours he disappeared from view. The police, on the
strength of what he said to Michaelis, that he ehad a way of
finding out,f supposed that he spent that time going from
garage to garage thereabouts inquiring for a yellow car. On
the other hand no garage man who had seen him ever came
forward--and perhaps he had an easier, surer way of finding
out what he wanted to know. By half past two he was
in West Egg where he asked someone the way to Gatsbyfs
house. So by that time he knew Gatsbyfs name.
At two ofclock Gatsby put on his bathing suit and left
word with the butler that if any one phoned word was to be
brought to him at the pool. He stopped at the garage for a
pneumatic mattress that had amused his guests during the
summer, and the chauffeur helped him pump it up. Then he
gave instructions that the open car wasnft to be taken out
under any circumstances--and this was strange because
the front right fender needed repair.
Gatsby shouldered the mattress and started for the pool.
Once he stopped and shifted it a little, and the chauffeur
asked him if he needed help, but he shook his head and in a
moment disappeared among the yellowing trees.
No telephone message arrived but the butler went without
his sleep and waited for it until four ofclock--until long
after there was any one to give it to if it came. I have an idea
that Gatsby himself didnft believe it would come and perhaps
he no longer cared. If that was true he must have felt
that he had lost the old warm world, paid a high price for
living too long with a single dream. He must have looked
up at an unfamiliar sky through frightening leaves and
shivered as he found what a grotesque thing a rose is and
how raw the sunlight was upon the scarcely created grass. A
new world, material without being real, where poor ghosts,
breathing dreams like air, drifted fortuitously about c like
that ashen, fantastic figure gliding toward him through the
The chauffeur--he was one of Wolfshiemfs proteges--
heard the shots--afterward he could only say that he hadnft
thought anything much about them. I drove from the station
directly to Gatsbyfs house and my rushing anxiously 173
up the front steps was the first thing that alarmed any one.
But they knew then, I firmly believe. With scarcely a word
said, four of us, the chauffeur, butler, gardener and I, hurried
down to the pool.
There was a faint, barely perceptible movement of the
water as the fresh flow from one end urged its way toward
the drain at the other. With little ripples that were hardly
the shadows of waves, the laden mattress moved irregularly
down the pool. A small gust of wind that scarcely corrugated
the surface was enough to disturb its accidental course
with its accidental burden. The touch of a cluster of leaves
revolved it slowly, tracing, like the leg of compass, a thin red
circle in the water.
It was after we started with Gatsby toward the house that
the gardener saw Wilsonfs body a little way off in the grass,
and the holocaust was complete.
After two years I remember the rest of that day, and that
night and the next day, only as an endless drill of police
and photographers and newspaper men in and out of Gats-
byfs front door. A rope stretched across the main gate
and a policeman by it kept out the curious, but little boys
soon discovered that they could enter through my yard and
there were always a few of them clustered open-mouthed
about the pool. Someone with a positive manner, perhaps
a detective, used the expression emad manf as he bent over
Wilsonfs body that afternoon, and the adventitious authority
of his voice set the key for the newspaper reports next
Most of those reports were a nightmare--grotesque, circ-
umstantial, eager and untrue. When Michaelisfs testimony
at the inquest brought to light Wilsonfs suspicions of his wife
I thought the whole tale would shortly be served up in racy
pasquinade1--but Catherine, who might have said anything,
didnft say a word. She showed a surprising amount of char-
acter about it too--looked at the coroner with determined
eyes under that corrected brow of hers and swore that her
sister had never seen Gatsby, that her sister was completely
happy with her husband, that her sister had been into no
mischief whatever. She convinced herself of it and cried
into her handkerchief as if the very suggestion was more
than she could endure. So Wilson was reduced to a man
ederanged by grieff in order that the case might remain in
its simplest form. And it rested there.
But all this part of it seemed remote and unessential. I
found myself on Gatsbyfs side, and alone. From the moment
I telephoned news of the catastrophe to West Egg village,
every surmise about him, and every practical question, was
referred to me. At first I was surprised and confused; then,
as he lay in his house and didnft move or breathe or speak
hour upon hour it grew upon me that I was responsible, be-
cause no one else was interested--interested, I mean, with
that intense personal interest to which every one has some
vague right at the end.
I called up Daisy half an hour after we found him, called
her instinctively and without hesitation. But she and Tom
had gone away early that afternoon, and taken baggage with
eLeft no address?f
eSay when theyfd be back?f
eAny idea where they are? How I could reach them?f
eI donft know. Canft say.f
I wanted to get somebody for him. I wanted to go into the
room where he lay and reassure him: eIfll get somebody
for you, Gatsby. Donft worry. Just trust me and Ifll get
somebody for you----e
Meyer Wolfshiemfs name wasnft in the phone book. The
butler gave me his office address on Broadway and I called
Information, but by the time I had the number it was long
after five and no one answered the phone.
eWill you ring again?f
eIfve rung them three times.f
eItfs very important.f
eSorry. Ifm afraid no onefs there.f
I went back to the drawing room and thought for an instant
that they were chance visitors, all these official people who
suddenly filled it. But as they drew back the sheet and look-
ed at Gatsby with unmoved eyes, his protest continued in
eLook here, old sport, youfve got to get somebody for me.
Youfve got to try hard. I canft go through this alone.f
Some one started to ask me questions but I broke away
and going upstairs looked hastily through the unlocked
parts of his desk--hefd never told me definitely that his
parents were dead. But there was nothing--only the picture
of Dan Cody, a token of forgotten violence staring down
from the wall.
Next morning I sent the butler to New York with a letter to
Wolfshiem which asked for information and urged him to come
out on the next train. That request seemed superfluous when
I wrote it. I was sure hefd start when he saw the newspapers,
just as I was sure therefd be a wire from Daisy before noon
--but neither a wire nor Mr. Wolfshiem arrived, no one arrive-
d except more police and photographers and newspaper men.
When the butler brought back Wolfshiemfs answer I began to
have a feeling of defiance, of scornful solidarity between
Gatsby and me against them all.
Dear Mr. Carraway. This has been one of the most terrible
shocks of my life to me I hardly can believe it that it is true
at all. Such a mad act as that man did should make us all
think. I cannot come down now as I am tied up in some very
important business and cannot get mixed up in this thing
now. If there is anything I can do a little later let me know in a
letter by Edgar. I hardly know where I am when I hear about
a thing like this and am completely knocked down and out.
and then hasty addenda beneath:
Let me know about the funeral etc do not know his family at
When the phone rang that afternoon and Long Distance said
Chicago was calling I thought this would be Daisy at last. But
the connection came through as a manfs voice, very thin
and far away.
eThis is Slagle speaking....f
eYes?f The name was unfamiliar.
eHell of a note, isnft it? Get my wire?f
eThere havenft been any wires.f
eYoung Parkefs in trouble,f he said rapidly. eThey picked
him up when he handed the bonds over the counter. They
got a circular from New York giving eem the numbers just
five minutes before. What dfyou know about that, hey? You
never can tell in these hick towns----e
eHello!f I interrupted breathlessly. eLook here--this isnft
Mr. Gatsby. Mr. Gatsbyfs dead.f
There was a long silence on the other end of the wire,
followed by an exclamation c then a quick squawk as the
connection was broken.
I think it was on the third day that a telegram signed
Henry C. Gatz arrived from a town in Minnesota. It said
only that the sender was leaving immediately and to postpone
the funeral until he came.
It was Gatsbyfs father, a solemn old man very helpless
and dismayed, bundled up in a long cheap ulster against
the warm September day. His eyes leaked continuously with
excitement and when I took the bag and umbrella from his
hands he began to pull so incessantly at his sparse grey
beard that I had difficulty in getting off his coat. He was
on the point of collapse so I took him into the music room
and made him sit down while I sent for something to eat.
But he wouldnft eat and the glass of milk spilled from his
eI saw it in the Chicago newspaper,f he said. eIt was all in
the Chicago newspaper. I started right away.f
eI didnft know how to reach you.f
His eyes, seeing nothing, moved ceaselessly about the
eIt was a mad man,f he said. eHe must have been mad.f
eWouldnft you like some coffee?f I urged him.
eI donft want anything. Ifm all right now, Mr.----e
eWell, Ifm all right now. Where have they got Jimmy?f
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 mouth ajar, his face flushed slightly, his eyes leaking
isolated and unpunctual tears. He had reached an age
where death no longer has the quality of ghastly surprise,
and when he looked around him now for the first time and
saw the height and splendor of the hall and the great rooms
opening out from it into other rooms his grief began to be
mixed with an awed pride. I helped him to a bedroom upstairs;
while he took off his coat and vest I told him that all
arrangements had been deferred until he came.
eI didnft know what youfd want, Mr. Gatsby----e
eGatz is my name.f
e--Mr. Gatz. I thought you might want to take the body
He shook his head.
eJimmy always liked it better down East. He rose up to his
position in the East. Were you a friend of my boyfs, Mr.--?f
eWe were close friends.f
eHe had a big future before him, you know. He was only a
young man but he had a lot of brain power here.f
He touched his head impressively and I nodded.
eIf hefd of lived hefd of been a great man. A man like
James J. Hill. Hefd of helped build up the country.f
eThatfs true,f 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 know who I was before he would give his
eThis is Mr. Carraway,f I said.
eOh--f He sounded relieved. eThis is Klipspringer.f
I was relieved too for that seemed to promise another
friend at Gatsbyfs grave. I didnft want it to be in the papers
and draw a sightseeing crowd so Ifd been calling up a few
people myself. They were hard to find.
eThe funeralfs tomorrow,f I said. eThree ofclock, here at
the house. I wish youfd tell anybody whofd be interested.f
eOh, I will,f he broke out hastily. eOf course Ifm not likely
to see anybody, but if I do.f
His tone made me suspicious.
eOf course youfll be there yourself.f
eWell, Ifll certainly try. What I called up about is----e
eWait a minute,f I interrupted. eHow about saying youfll
eWell, the fact is--the truth of the matter is that Ifm staying
with some people up here in Greenwich and they rather
expect me to be with them tomorrow. In fact therefs a sort
of picnic or something. Of course Ifll do my very best to get
I ejaculated an unrestrained eHuh!f and he must have
heard me for he went on nervously:
eWhat I called up about was a pair of shoes I left there. I
wonder if itfd be too much trouble to have the butler send
them on. You see theyfre tennis shoes and Ifm sort of help-
less without them. My address is care of B. F.----e I didnft
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 I telephoned implied that he had got what he deser-
ved. However, that was my fault, for he was one of those
who used to sneer most bitterly at Gatsby on the courage
of Gatsbyfs liquor and I should have known better than
to call him.
The morning of the funeral I went up to New York to see
Meyer Wolfshiem; I couldnft seem to reach him any other
way. The door that I pushed open on the advice of an ele-
vator boy was marked eThe Swastika Holding Companyf and
at first there didnft seem to be any one inside. But when Ifd
shouted eHellof several times in vain an argument broke out
behind a partition and presently a lovely Jewess appeared
at an interior door and scrutinized me with black hostile
eNobodyfs in,f she said. eMr. Wolfshiemfs gone to Chicago.f
The first part of this was obviously untrue for someone
had begun to whistle eThe Rosary,f tunelessly, inside.
ePlease say that Mr. Carraway wants to see him.f
eI canft get him back from Chicago, can I?f
At this moment a voice, unmistakably Wolfshiemfs called
eStella!f from the other side of the door.
eLeave your name on the desk,f she said quickly. eIfll give
it to him when he gets back.f
eBut I know hefs there.f
She took a step toward me and began to slide her hands
indignantly up and down her hips.
eYou young men think you can force your way in here any
time,f she scolded. eWefre getting sickantired of it. When I
say hefs in Chicago, hefs in Chicago.f
I mentioned Gatsby.
eOh--h!f She looked at me over again. eWill you just--
what was your name?f
She vanished. In a moment Meyer Wolfshiem stood solemnly
in the doorway, holding out both hands. He drew me
into his office, remarking in a reverent voice that it was a sad
time for all of us, and offered me a cigar.
eMy memory goes back to when I first met him,f he said.
eA young major just out of the army and covered over with
medals he got in the war. He was so hard up he had to keep
on wearing his uniform because he couldnft buy some regular
clothes. First time I saw him was when he come into Winebren-
nerfs poolroom at Forty-third Street and asked for a job. He
hadnft eat anything for a couple of days. eCome on have
some lunch with me,f I sid. He ate more than four dollarsf
worth of food in half an hour.f
eDid you start him in business?f I inquired.
eStart him! I made him.f
eI raised him up out of nothing, right out of the gutter. I
saw right away he was a fine appearing, gentlemanly young
man, and when he told me he was an Oggsford I knew I
could use him good. I got him to join up in the American
Legion and he used to stand high there. Right off he did
some work for a client of mine up to Albany. We were so
thick like that in everything--f He held up two bulbous
fingers e--always together.f
I wondered if this partnership had included the Worldfs
Series transaction in 1919.
eNow hefs dead,f I said after a moment. eYou were his
closest friend, so I know youfll want to come to his funeral
eIfd like to come.f
eWell, come then.f
The hair in his nostrils quivered slightly and as he shook
his head his eyes filled with tears.
eI canft do it--I canft get mixed up in it,f he said.
eTherefs nothing to get mixed up in. Itfs all over now.f
eWhen 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 mine died, no matter how, I stuck
with them to the end. You may think thatfs sentimental but
I mean it--to the bitter end.f
I saw that for some reason of his own he was determined
not to come, so I stood up.
eAre you a college man?f he inquired suddenly.
For a moment I thought he was going to suggest a egonnegtionf
but he only nodded and shook my hand.
eLet us learn to show our friendship for a man when he is
alive and not after he is dead,f he suggested. eAfter that my
own rule is to let everything alone.f
When I left his office the sky had turned dark and I got
back to West Egg in a drizzle. After changing my clothes I
went next door and found Mr. Gatz walking up and down
excitedly in the hall. His pride in his son and in his sonfs
possessions was continually increasing and now he had
something to show me.
eJimmy sent me this picture.f He took out his wallet with
trembling fingers. eLook there.f
It was a photograph of the house, cracked in the corners
and dirty with many hands. He pointed out every detail to
me eagerly. eLook there!f and then sought admiration from
my eyes. He had shown it so often that I think it was more
real to him now than the house itself.
eJimmy sent it to me. I think itfs a very pretty picture. It
shows up well.f
eVery well. Had you seen him lately?f
eHe come out to see me two years ago and bought me the
house I live in now. Of course we was broke up when he run
off from home but I see now there 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.f
He seemed reluctant to put away the picture, held it for
another minute, lingeringly, before my eyes. Then he returned
the wallet and pulled from his pocket a ragged old
copy of a book called Hopalong Cassidy.
eLook here, this is a book he had when he was a boy. It
just shows you.f
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 date September 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 @".
Baseball and sports..........................................4.30-5.00 @".
Practice elocution, poise and how to attain it 5.00-6.00 P.M.
Study needed inventions.................................7.00-9.00 @".
No wasting time at Shafters or [a name, indecipherable]
No more smokeing or chewing
Bath every other day
Read one improving book or magazine per week
Save $5.00 [crossed out] $3.00 per week
Be better to parents
eI come across this book by accident,f said the old man. eIt
just shows you, donft it?f
eIt just shows you.f
eJimmy was bound to get ahead. He always had some resolves
like this or something. Do you notice what hefs got
about improving his mind? He was always great for that. He
told me I et like a hog once and I beat him for it.f
He was reluctant to close the book, reading each item
aloud and then looking eagerly at me. I think he rather expected
me to copy down the list for my own use.
A little before three the Lutheran minister arrived from
Flushing and I began to look involuntarily out the windows
for other cars. So did Gatsbyfs father. And as the time passed
and the servants came in and stood waiting in the hall, his
eyes began to blink anxiously and he spoke of the rain in a
worried uncertain way. The minister glanced several times
at his watch so I took him aside and asked him to wait for
half an hour. But it wasnft any use. Nobody came.
About five ofclock our procession of three cars reached
the cemetery and 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 the limousine, and, a little
later, four or five servants and the postman from West Egg
in Gatsbyfs station wagon, all wet to the skin. As we started
through the gate into the cemetery I heard a car stop and
then the sound of someone splashing after us over the sog-
gy ground. I looked around. It was the man with owl-eyed
glasses whom I had found marvelling over Gatsbyfs books
in the library one night three months before.
Ifd never seen him since then. I donft know how he knew
about the funeral or even his name. The rain poured down
his thick glasses and he took them off and wiped them to
see the protecting canvas unrolled from Gatsbyfs grave.
I tried to think about Gatsby then for a moment but he was
already too far away and I could only remember, without
resentment, that Daisy hadnft sent a message or a flower.
Dimly I heard someone murmur eBlessed are the dead that
the rain falls on,f and then the owl-eyed man said eAmen to
that,f in a brave voice.
We straggled down quickly through the rain to the cars.
Owl-Eyes spoke to me by the gate.
eI couldnft get to the house,f he remarked.
eNeither could anybody else.f
eGo on!f He started. eWhy, my God! they used to go there
by the hundreds.f
He took off his glasses and wiped them again outside and
eThe poor son-of-a-bitch,f he said.
One of my most vivid memories is of coming back west
from prep school and later from college at Christmas time.
Those who went farther than Chicago would gather in the
old dim Union Station at six ofclock of a December evening
with a few Chicago friends already caught up into their own
holiday gayeties to bid them a hasty goodbye. I remember the
fur coats of the girls returning from Miss This or Thatfs and
the chatter of frozen breath and the hands waving overhead
as we caught sight of old acquaintances and the matchings
of invitations: eAre you going to the Ordwaysf? the Herseysf?
the Schultzesf?f and the long green tickets clasped tight in
our gloved hands. And last the murky yellow cars of the
Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad looking cheerful
as Christmas itself on the tracks beside the 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 the dim lights of small Wisconsin stations
moved by, a sharp wild brace came suddenly into the air. We
drew in deep breaths of it as we walked back from dinner
through the cold vestibules, unutterably aware of our iden-
tity with this country for one strange hour before we melt-
ed indistinguishably into it again.
Thatfs my middle west--not the wheat or the prairies or
the lost Swede towns but the thrilling, returning trains of
my youth and the street lamps and sleigh bells in the frosty
dark and the shadows of holly wreaths thrown by lighted
windows on the snow. I am part of that, a little solemn with
the feel of those long winters, a little complacent from grow-
ing up in the Carraway house in a city where dwellings are
still called through decades by a familyfs name. I see now
that this has been a story of the West, after all--Tom and
Gatsby, Daisy and Jordan and I, were all Westerners, and
perhaps we possessed some deficiency in common which
made us subtly unadaptable to Eastern life.
Even when the East excited me most, even when I was
most keenly aware of its superiority to the bored, sprawling,
swollen towns beyond the Ohio, with their interminable
inquisitions which spared only the children and the very
old--even then it had always for me a quality of distortion.
West Egg especially still figures in my more fantastic
dreams. I see it as a night scene by El Greco: a hundred
houses, at once conventional and grotesque, crouching
under a sullen, overhanging sky and a lustreless moon. In
the foreground four solemn men in dress suits are walking
along the sidewalk with a stretcher on which lies a drunken
woman in a white evening dress. Her hand, which dangles
over the side, sparkles cold with jewels. Gravely the men
turn in at a house--the wrong house. But no one knows the
womanfs name, and no one cares.
After Gatsbyfs death the East was haunted for me like
that, distorted beyond my eyesf power of correction. So
when the blue smoke of brittle leaves was in the air and
the wind blew the wet laundry stiff on the line I decided to
come back home.
There was one thing to be done before I left, an awkward,
unpleasant thing that perhaps had better have been let a-
lone. But I wanted to leave things in order and not just
trust that obliging and indifferent sea to sweep my refuse
away. I saw Jordan Baker and talked over and around what
had happened to us together and what had happened after-
ward to me, and she lay perfectly still listening in a big
She was dressed to play golf and I remember thinking
she looked like a good illustration, her chin raised a little,
jauntily, her hair the color of an autumn leaf, her face the
same brown tint as the fingerless glove on her knee. When
I had finished she told me without comment that she was
engaged to another man. I doubted that though there were
several she could have married at a nod of her head but I
pretended to be surprised. For just a minute I wondered if
I wasnft making a mistake, then I thought it all over again
quickly and got up to say goodbye.
eNevertheless you did throw me over,f said Jordan suddenly.
eYou threw me over on the telephone. I donft give a damn
about you now but it was a new experience for me and I felt
a little dizzy for a while.f
We shook hands.
eOh, and do you remember--f she added, e----a conversation
we had once about driving a car?f
eYou said a bad driver was only safe until she met an-
other bad driver? Well, I met another bad driver, didnft I?
I mean it was careless of me to make such a wrong guess. I
thought you were rather an honest, straightforward person.
I thought it was your secret pride.f
eIfm thirty,f I said. eIfm five years too old to lie to myself
and call it honor.f
She didnft answer. Angry, and half in love with her, and
tremendously sorry, I turned away.
One afternoon late in October I saw Tom Buchanan. He
was walking ahead of me along Fifth Avenue in his alert,
aggressive way, his hands out a little from his body as if to
fight off interference, his head moving sharply here and
there, adapting itself to his restless eyes. Just as I slowed up
to avoid overtaking him he stopped and began frowning
into the windows of a jewelry store. Suddenly he saw me
and walked back holding out his hand.
eWhatfs the matter, Nick? Do you object to shaking hands
eYes. You know what I think of you.f
eYoufre crazy, Nick,f he said quickly. eCrazy as hell. I donft
know whatfs the matter with you.f
eTom,f I inquired, ewhat did you say to Wilson that afternoon?f
He stared at me without a word and I knew I had guessed
right about those missing hours. I started to turn away but
he took a step after me and grabbed my arm.
eI told him the truth,f he said. eHe came to the door while
we were getting ready to leave and when I sent down word
that we werenft in he tried to force his way upstairs. He was
crazy enough to kill me if I hadnft told him who owned the
car. His hand was on a revolver in his pocket every minute
he was in the house----f He broke off defiantly. eWhat if I
did tell him? That fellow had it coming to him. He threw dust
into your eyes just like he did in Daisyfs but he was a tough
one. He ran over Myrtle like youfd run over a dog and never
even stopped his car.f
There was nothing I could say, except the one unutterable
fact that it wasnft true.
eAnd if you think I didnft have my share of suffering--
look here, when I went to give up that flat and saw that
damn box of dog biscuits sitting there on the sideboard I sat
down and cried like a baby. By God it was awful----e
I couldnft 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 and creatures and then retreated
back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever
it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up
the mess they had madec.
I shook hands with him; it seemed silly not to, for I felt sud-
denly as though I were talking to a child. Then he went into
the jewelry store to buy a pearl necklace--or perhaps only a
pair of cuff buttons--rid of my provincial squeamishness
Gatsbyfs house was still empty when I left--the grass on
his lawn had grown as long as mine. One of the taxi drivers
in the village never took a fare past the entrance gate
without stopping for a minute and pointing inside; perhaps
it was he who drove Daisy and Gatsby over to East Egg the
night of the accident and perhaps he had made a story about
it all his own. I didnft want to hear it and I avoided him
when I got off the train.
I spent my Saturday nights in New York because those
gleaming, dazzling parties of his were with me so vividly
that I could still hear the music and the laughter faint and
incessant from his garden and the cars going up and down
his drive. One night I did hear a material car there and saw
its lights stop at his front steps. But I didnft investigate.
Probably it was some final guest who had been away at the
ends of the earth and didnft 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 once more. On the white steps an obscene
word, scrawled by some boy with a piece of brick, stood out
clearly in the moonlight and I erased it, drawing my shoe
raspingly along the stone. Then I wandered down to the
beach and sprawled out on the sand.
Most of the big shore places were closed now and there
were hardly any lights except the shadowy, moving glow of
a ferryboat across the Sound. And as the moon rose higher
the inessential houses began to melt away until gradually I
became aware of the old island here that flowered once for
Dutch sailorsf eyes--a fresh, green breast of the new world.
Its vanished trees, the trees that had made way for Gatsbyfs
house, had once pandered in whispers to the last and
greatest of all human dreams; for a transitory enchanted
moment man must have held his breath in the presence of 193
this continent, compelled into an aesthetic contemplation
he neither understood nor desired, face to face for the last
time in history with something commensurate to his capacity
And as I sat there brooding on the old, unknown world,
I thought of Gatsbyfs wonder when he first picked out the
green light at the end of Daisyfs dock. He had come a long
way to this blue lawn and his dream must have seemed so
close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know
that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast
obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic
rolled on under the night.
Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future
that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but
thatfs no matter--tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out
our arms fartherc. And one fine morning----
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back
ceaselessly into the past.