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Chapter 5

  • When I came home to West Egg that night I was afraid for a moment that m_ouse was on fire. Two o’clock and the whole corner of the peninsula wa_lazing with light, which fell unreal on the shrubbery and made thi_longating glints upon the roadside wires. Turning a corner, I saw that it wa_atsby’s house, lit from tower to cellar.
  • At first I thought it was another party, a wild rout that had resolved itsel_nto “hide-and-go-seek.” or “sardines-in-the-box.” with all the house throw_pen to the game. But there wasn’t a sound. Only wind in the trees, which ble_he wires and made the lights go off and on again as if the house had winke_nto the darkness. As my taxi groaned away I saw Gatsby walking toward m_cross his lawn.
  • “Your place looks like the World’s Fair,” I said.
  • “Does it?” He turned his eyes toward it absently. “I have been glancing int_ome of the rooms. Let’s go to Coney Island, old sport. In my car.”
  • “It’s too late.”
  • “Well, suppose we take a plunge in the swimming-pool? I haven’t made use of i_ll summer.”
  • “I’ve got to go to bed.”
  • “All right.”
  • He waited, looking at me with suppressed eagerness.
  • “I talked with Miss Baker,” I said after a moment. “I’m going to call up Dais_o-morrow and invite her over here to tea.”
  • “Oh, that’s all right,” he said carelessly. “I don’t want to put you to an_rouble.”
  • “What day would suit you?”
  • “What day would suit YOU?” he corrected me quickly. “I don’t want to put yo_o any trouble, you see.”
  • “How about the day after to-morrow?” He considered for a moment. Then, wit_eluctance:
  • “I want to get the grass cut,” he said.
  • We both looked at the grass — there was a sharp line where my ragged law_nded and the darker, well-kept expanse of his began. I suspected that h_eant my grass.
  • “There’s another little thing,” he said uncertainly, and hesitated.
  • “Would you rather put it off for a few days?” I asked.
  • “Oh, it isn’t about that. At least ——” He fumbled with a series of beginnings.
  • “Why, I thought — why, look here, old sport, you don’t make much money, d_ou?”
  • “Not very much.”
  • This seemed to reassure him and he continued more confidently.
  • “I thought you didn’t, if you’ll pardon my — You see, I carry on a littl_usiness on the side, a sort of side line, you understand. And I thought tha_f you don’t make very much — You’re selling bonds, aren’t you, old sport?”
  • “Trying to.”
  • “Well, this would interest you. It wouldn’t take up much of your time and yo_ight pick up a nice bit of money. It happens to be a rather confidential sor_f thing.”
  • I realize now that under different circumstances that conversation might hav_een one of the crises of my life. But, because the offer was obviously an_actlessly for a service to be rendered, I had no choice except to cut him of_here.
  • “I’ve got my hands full,” I said. “I’m much obliged but I couldn’t take on an_ore work.”
  • “You wouldn’t have to do any business with Wolfsheim.” Evidently he though_hat I was shying away from the “gonnegtion.” mentioned at lunch, but _ssured him he was wrong. He waited a moment longer, hoping I’d begin _onversation, but I was too absorbed to be responsive, so he went unwillingl_ome.
  • The evening had made me light-headed and happy; I think I walked into a dee_leep as I entered my front door. So I didn’t know whether or not Gatsby wen_o Coney Island, or for how many hours he “glanced into rooms.” while hi_ouse blazed gaudily on. I called up Daisy from the office next morning, an_nvited her to come to tea.
  • “Don’t bring Tom,” I warned her.
  • “What?”
  • “Don’t bring Tom.”
  • “Who is ‘Tom’?” she asked innocently.
  • The day agreed upon was pouring rain. At eleven o’clock a man in a raincoat, dragging a lawn-mower, tapped at my front door and said that Mr. Gatsby ha_ent him over to cut my grass. This reminded me that I had forgotten to tel_y Finn to come back, so I drove into West Egg Village to search for her amon_oggy, whitewashed alleys and to buy some cups and lemons and flowers.
  • The flowers were unnecessary, for at two o’clock a greenhouse arrived fro_atsby’s, with innumerable receptacles to contain it. An hour later the fron_oor opened nervously, and Gatsby, in a white flannel suit, silver shirt, an_old-colored tie, hurried in. He was pale, and there were dark signs o_leeplessness beneath his eyes.
  • “Is everything all right?” he asked immediately.
  • “The grass looks fine, if that’s what you mean.”
  • “What grass?” he inquired blankly. “Oh, the grass in the yard.” He looked ou_he window at it, but, judging from his expression, I don’t believe he saw _hing.
  • “Looks very good,” he remarked vaguely. “One of the papers said they though_he rain would stop about four. I think it was the JOURNAL. Have you go_verything you need in the shape of — of tea?”
  • I took him into the pantry, where he looked a little reproachfully at th_inn. Together we scrutinized the twelve lemon cakes from the delicatesse_hop.
  • “Will they do?” I asked.
  • “Of course, of course! They’re fine!” and he added hollowly, “… old sport.”
  • The rain cooled about half-past three to a damp mist, through which occasiona_hin drops swam like dew. Gatsby looked with vacant eyes through a copy o_lay’s 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 o_nvisible but alarming happenings were taking place outside. Finally he got u_nd informed me, in an uncertain voice, that he was going home.
  • “Why’s that?”
  • “Nobody’s coming to tea. It’s too late!” He looked at his watch as if ther_as some pressing demand on his time elsewhere. “I can’t wait all day.”
  • “Don’t be silly; it’s just two minutes to four.”
  • He sat down miserably, as if I had pushed him, and simultaneously there wa_he sound of a motor turning into my lane. We both jumped up, and, a littl_arrowed myself, I went out into the yard.
  • Under the dripping bare lilac-trees a large open car was coming up the drive.
  • It stopped. Daisy’s face, tipped sideways beneath a three-cornered lavende_at, looked out at me with a bright ecstatic smile.
  • “Is this absolutely where you live, my dearest one?”
  • The exhilarating ripple of her voice was a wild tonic in the rain. I had t_ollow the sound of it for a moment, up and down, with my ear alone, befor_ny words came through. A damp streak of hair lay like a dash of blue pain_cross her cheek, and her hand was wet with glistening drops as I took it t_elp her from the car.
  • “Are you in love with me,” she said low in my ear, “or why did I have to com_lone?”
  • “That’s the secret of Castle Rackrent. Tell your chauffeur to go far away an_pend an hour.”
  • “Come back in an hour, Ferdie.” Then in a grave murmur: “His name is Ferdie.”
  • “Does the gasoline affect his nose?”
  • “I don’t think so,” she said innocently. “Why?”
  • We went in. To my overwhelming surprise the living-room was deserted.
  • “Well, that’s funny,” I exclaimed.
  • “What’s funny?”
  • 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 lik_eights in his coat pockets, was standing in a puddle of water glarin_ragically 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 disappeared into the living-room.
  • It wasn’t a bit funny. Aware of the loud beating of my own heart I pulled th_oor to against the increasing rain.
  • For half a minute there wasn’t a sound. Then from the living-room I heard _ort of choking murmur and part of a laugh, followed by Daisy’s voice on _lear artificial note: “I certainly am awfully glad to see you again.”
  • A pause; it endured horribly. I had nothing to do in the hall, so I went int_he room.
  • Gatsby, his hands still in his pockets, was reclining against the mantelpiec_n a strained counterfeit of perfect ease, even of boredom. His head leane_ack 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 wa_itting, frightened but graceful, on the edge of a stiff chair.
  • “We’ve met before,” muttered Gatsby. His eyes glanced momentarily at me, an_is lips parted with an abortive attempt at a laugh. Luckily the clock too_his moment to tilt dangerously at the pressure of his head, whereupon h_urned and caught it with trembling fingers, and set it back in place. Then h_at down, rigidly, his elbow on the arm of the sofa and his chin in his hand.
  • “I’m sorry about the clock,” he said.
  • My own face had now assumed a deep tropical burn. I couldn’t muster up _ingle commonplace out of the thousand in my head.
  • “It’s an old clock,” I told them idiotically.
  • I think we all believed for a moment that it had smashed in pieces on th_loor.
  • “We haven’t met for many years,” said Daisy, her voice as matter-of-fact as i_ould ever be.
  • “Five years next November.”
  • The automatic quality of Gatsby’s answer set us all back at least anothe_inute. I had them both on their feet with the desperate suggestion that the_elp me make tea in the kitchen when the demoniac Finn brought it in on _ray.
  • Amid the welcome confusion of cups and cakes a certain physical decenc_stablished itself. Gatsby got himself into a shadow and, while Daisy and _alked, looked conscientiously from one to the other of us with tense, unhapp_yes. However, as calmness wasn’t an end in itself, I made an excuse at th_irst possible moment, and got to my feet.
  • “Where are you going?” demanded Gatsby in immediate alarm.
  • “I’ll be back.”
  • “I’ve got to speak to you about something before you go.”
  • He followed me wildly into the kitchen, closed the door, and whispered:
  • “Oh, God!” in a miserable way.
  • “What’s the matter?”
  • “This is a terrible mistake,” he said, shaking his head from side to side, “_errible, terrible mistake.”
  • “You’re just embarrassed, that’s all,” and luckily I added: “Daisy’_mbarrassed too.”
  • “She’s embarrassed?” he repeated incredulously.
  • “Just as much as you are.”
  • “Don’t talk so loud.”
  • “You’re acting like a little boy,” I broke out impatiently. “Not only that, but you’re rude. Daisy’s sitting in there all alone.”
  • 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 nervou_ircuit of the house half an hour before — and ran for a huge black knotte_ree, whose massed leaves made a fabric against the rain. Once more it wa_ouring, and my irregular lawn, well-shaved by Gatsby’s gardener, abounded i_mall, muddy swamps and prehistoric marshes. There was nothing to look at fro_nder the tree except Gatsby’s enormous house, so I stared at it, like Kant a_is church steeple, for half an hour. A brewer had built it early in the “period.” craze, a decade before, and there was a story that he’d agreed t_ay five years’ taxes on all the neighboring cottages if the owners would hav_heir roofs thatched with straw. Perhaps their refusal took the heart out o_is plan to Found a Family — he went into an immediate decline. His childre_old his house with the black wreath still on the door. Americans, whil_ccasionally willing to be serfs, have always been obstinate about bein_easantry.
  • After half an hour, the sun shone again, and the grocer’s automobile rounde_atsby’s drive with the raw material for his servants’ dinner — I felt sure h_ouldn’t eat a spoonful. A maid began opening the upper windows of his house, appeared momentarily in each, and, leaning from a large central bay, spa_editatively into the garden. It was time I went back. While the rai_ontinued it had seemed like the murmur of their voices, rising and swelling _ittle now and then with gusts of emotion. But in the new silence I felt tha_ilence had fallen within the house too.
  • I went in — after making every possible noise in the kitchen, short of pushin_ver the stove — but I don’t believe they heard a sound. They were sitting a_ither end of the couch, looking at each other as if some question had bee_sked, or was in the air, and every vestige of embarrassment was gone. Daisy’_ace was smeared with tears, and when I came in she jumped up and began wipin_t it with her handkerchief before a mirror. But there was a change in Gatsb_hat was simply confounding. He literally glowed; without a word or a gestur_f exultation a new well-being radiated from him and filled the little room.
  • “Oh, hello, old sport,” he said, as if he hadn’t seen me for years. I though_or a moment he was going to shake hands.
  • “It’s stopped raining.”
  • “Has it?” 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 ecstati_atron of recurrent light, and repeated the news to Daisy. “What do you thin_f that? It’s stopped raining.”
  • “I’m glad, Jay.” Her throat, full of aching, grieving beauty, told only of he_nexpected joy.
  • “I want you and Daisy to come over to my house,” he said, “I’d like to sho_er around.”
  • “You’re sure you want me to come?”
  • “Absolutely, old sport.”
  • Daisy went up-stairs to wash her face — too late I thought with humiliation o_y towels — while Gatsby and I waited on the lawn.
  • “My house looks well, doesn’t it?” he demanded. “See how the whole front of i_atches the light.”
  • I agreed that it was splendid.
  • “Yes.” His eyes went over it, every arched door and square tower. “It took m_ust three years to earn the money that bought it.”
  • “I thought you inherited your money.”
  • “I did, old sport,” he said automatically, “but I lost most of it in the bi_anic — the panic of the war.”
  • I think he hardly knew what he was saying, for when I asked him what busines_e was in he answered, “That’s my affair,” before he realized that it wasn’_he appropriate reply.
  • “Oh, I’ve been in several things,” he corrected himself. “I was in the dru_usiness and then I was in the oil business. But I’m not in either one now.” He looked at me with more attention. “Do you mean you’ve been thinking ove_hat I proposed the other night?”
  • Before I could answer, Daisy came out of the house and two rows of bras_uttons on her dress gleamed in the sunlight.
  • “That huge place THERE?” she cried pointing.
  • “Do you like it?”
  • “I love it, but I don’t see how you live there all alone.”
  • “I keep it always full of interesting people, night and day. People who d_nteresting things. Celebrated people.”
  • Instead of taking the short cut along the Sound we went down the road an_ntered by the big postern. With enchanting murmurs Daisy admired this aspec_r that of the feudal silhouette against the sky, admired the gardens, th_parkling odor of jonquils and the frothy odor of hawthorn and plum blossom_nd the pale gold odor of kiss-me-at-the-gate. It was strange to reach th_arble steps and find no stir of bright dresses in and out the door, and hea_o sound but bird voices in the trees.
  • And inside, as we wandered through Marie Antoinette music-rooms an_estoration salons, I felt that there were guests concealed behind every couc_nd table, under orders to be breathlessly silent until we had passed through.
  • As Gatsby closed the door of “the Merton College Library.” I could have swor_ heard the owl-eyed man break into ghostly laughter.
  • We went up-stairs, through period bedrooms swathed in rose and lavender sil_nd vivid with new flowers, through dressing-rooms and poolrooms, an_athrooms with sunken baths — intruding into one chamber where a dishevelle_an in pajamas was doing liver exercises on the floor. It was Mr.
  • Klipspringer, the “boarder.” I had seen him wandering hungrily about the beac_hat morning. Finally we came to Gatsby’s own apartment, a bedroom and a bath, and an Adam study, where we sat down and drank a glass of some Chartreuse h_ook from a cupboard in the wall.
  • He hadn’t once ceased looking at Daisy, and I think he revalued everything i_is house according to the measure of response it drew from her well-love_yes. Sometimes, too, he stared around at his possessions in a dazed way, a_hough in her actual and astounding presence none of it was any longer real.
  • Once he nearly toppled down a flight of stairs.
  • His bedroom was the simplest room of all — except where the dresser wa_arnished with a toilet set of pure dull gold. Daisy took the brush wit_elight, and smoothed her hair, whereupon Gatsby sat down and shaded his eye_nd began to laugh.
  • “It’s the funniest thing, old sport,” he said hilariously. “I can’t — When _ry to ——”
  • He had passed visibly through two states and was entering upon a third. Afte_is embarrassment and his unreasoning joy he was consumed with wonder at he_resence. He had been full of the idea so long, dreamed it right through t_he end, waited with his teeth set, so to speak, at an inconceivable pitch o_ntensity. Now, in the reaction, he was running down like an overwound clock.
  • Recovering himself in a minute he opened for us two hulking patent cabinet_hich held his massed suits and dressing-gowns and ties, and his shirts, pile_ike bricks in stacks a dozen high.
  • “I’ve got a man in England who buys me clothes. He sends over a selection o_hings at the beginning of each season, spring and fall.”
  • 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 fold_s they fell and covered the table in many-colored disarray. While we admire_e brought more and the soft rich heap mounted higher — shirts with stripe_nd scrolls and plaids in coral and apple-green and lavender and faint orange, and monograms of Indian blue. Suddenly, with a strained sound, Daisy bent he_ead into the shirts and began to cry stormily.
  • “They’re such beautiful shirts,” she sobbed, her voice muffled in the thic_olds. “It makes me sad because I’ve never seen such — such beautiful shirt_efore.”
  • After the house, we were to see the grounds and the swimming-pool, and th_ydroplane and the mid-summer flowers — but outside Gatsby’s window it bega_o rain again, so we stood in a row looking at the corrugated surface of th_ound.
  • “If it wasn’t for the mist we could see your home across the bay,” sai_atsby. “You always have a green light that burns all night at the end of you_ock.”
  • Daisy put her arm through his abruptly, but he seemed absorbed in what he ha_ust said. Possibly it had occurred to him that the colossal significance o_hat light had now vanished forever. Compared to the great distance that ha_eparated 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 ligh_n a dock. His count of enchanted objects had diminished by one.
  • I began to walk about the room, examining various indefinite objects in th_alf darkness. A large photograph of an elderly man in yachting costum_ttracted me, hung on the wall over his desk.
  • “Who’s this?”
  • “That? That’s Mr. Dan Cody, old sport.”
  • The name sounded faintly familiar.
  • “He’s dead now. He used to be my best friend years ago.”
  • There was a small picture of Gatsby, also in yachting costume, on the bureau — Gatsby with his head thrown back defiantly — taken apparently when he wa_bout eighteen.
  • “I adore it,” exclaimed Daisy. “The pompadour! You never told me you had _ompadour — or a yacht.”
  • “Look at this,” said Gatsby quickly. “Here’s a lot of clippings — about you.”
  • They stood side by side examining it. I was going to ask to see the rubie_hen the phone rang, and Gatsby took up the receiver.
  • “Yes… . well, I can’t talk now… . I can’t talk now, old sport… . I said _MALL town… . he must know what a small town is… . well, he’s no use to us i_etroit is his idea of a small town… .”
  • He rang off.
  • “Come here QUICK!” cried Daisy at the window.
  • The rain was still falling, but the darkness had parted in the west, and ther_as a pink and golden billow of foamy clouds above the sea.
  • “Look at that,” she whispered, and then after a moment: “I’d like to just ge_ne of those pink clouds and put you in it and push you around.”
  • I tried to go then, but they wouldn’t hear of it; perhaps my presence mad_hem feel more satisfactorily alone.
  • “I know what we’ll do,” said Gatsby, “we’ll have Klipspringer play the piano.”
  • He went out of the room calling “Ewing!” and returned in a few minute_ccompanied by an embarrassed, slightly worn young man, with shell-rimme_lasses and scanty blond hair. He was now decently clothed in a “sport shirt,” open at the neck, sneakers, and duck trousers of a nebulous hue.
  • “Did we interrupt your exercises?” inquired Daisy politely.
  • “I was asleep,” cried Mr. Klipspringer, in a spasm of embarrassment. “That is, I’d BEEN asleep. Then I got up… .”
  • “Klipspringer plays the piano,” said Gatsby, cutting him off. “Don’t you, Ewing, old sport?”
  • “I don’t play well. I don’t — I hardly play at all. I’m all out of prac ——”
  • “We’ll go down-stairs,” interrupted Gatsby. He flipped a switch. The gra_indows disappeared as the house glowed full of light.
  • In the music-room Gatsby turned on a solitary lamp beside the piano. He li_aisy’s cigarette from a trembling match, and sat down with her on a couch fa_cross the room, where there was no light save what the gleaming floor bounce_n from the hall.
  • When Klipspringer had played THE LOVE NEST. he turned around on the bench an_earched unhappily for Gatsby in the gloom.
  • “I’m all out of practice, you see. I told you I couldn’t play. I’m all out o_rac ——”
  • “Don’t talk so much, old sport,” commanded Gatsby. “Play!”
  • “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 th_ound. 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 hou_f a profound human change, and excitement was generating on the air.
  • “ONE THING’S SURE AND NOTHING’S SURER THE RICH GET RICHER AND THE POOR GET— CHILDREN.
  • IN THE MEANTIME, IN BETWEEN TIME——”
  • As I went over to say good-by I saw that the expression of bewilderment ha_ome back into Gatsby’s face, as though a faint doubt had occurred to him a_o the quality of his present happiness. Almost five years! There must hav_een moments even that afternoon whe Daisy tumbled short of his dreams — no_hrough 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 wit_ creative passion, adding to it all the time, decking it out with ever_right feather that drifted his way. No amount of fire or freshness ca_hallenge what a man will store up in his ghostly heart.
  • As I watched him he adjusted himself a little, visibly. His hand took hold o_ers, and as she said something low in his ear he turned toward her with _ush of emotion. I think that voice held him most, with its fluctuating, feverish warmth, because it couldn’t be over-dreamed — that voice was _eathless song.
  • They had forgotten me, but Daisy glanced up and held out her hand; Gatsb_idn’t know me now at all. I looked once more at them and they looked back a_e, remotely, possessed by intense life. Then I went out of the room and dow_he marble steps into the rain, leaving them there together.